This dark humored Irish movie, starring Brendan Gleeson, was written and directed by first-timer John Michael McDonaugh. If "dark humor", "Irish", "Brendan Gleeson", and "McDonaugh" sound familiar, it's because you might be thinking of In Bruges, which was directed by playwright Martin McDonaugh, John's brother. This led me to sort of go into The Guard with some odd pre-conceptions.
Even from hearing the plot and seeing a trailer, this seemed like some sort of companion piece to In Bruges in that both seemingly featured gallows humor (joking in the face of hopelessness) along with some violent moments followed by wise-cracks about race and gender. From that perspective, the two films are like brothers, but they ultimately diverge into their own styles. Kind of like Ridley and Tony Scott, the McDonaugh bros. have similar tastes, but should both continue making films (and Martin's new film comes out in the fall!) one could expect a sort of "two sides of the same coin" sensibility from their work.
This film follows Irish policeman Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) whose small town is about to become the center of drugs and arms dealing that attracts the attention of FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle). The film proves to be a fine character piece for Gleeson. When we first meet Gerry, he watches a group of kids get into a car accident and he then goes over and loots the bodies. Through this and other actions, you start to realize that Gerry isn't necessarily evil, he's just bad at his job. He drinks on duty, sleeps with prostitutes, and doesn't work well with just about anyone.
He isn't lacking in intelligence, he's just naive. That makes the idea of partnering him with Wendell so entertaining. Gerry's statements may seem racist and uninformed, but as Cheadle points out, there is more than meets the eye to Gerry as he can solve crimes with ease, speaks lewdly with his mother, and claims to even be an Olympic swimmer. There is a great line in the movie that Wendell says that completely sums Gerry up- "You know, I can't tell if you're really motherfuckin' dumb or really motherfuckin' smart."
The movie has a nice and leisurely pace to it. Similar to the idea of two hitmen walking around Bruges when there is nothing to do, Gerry and Wendell spend most time trying to overcome the most innane obstacles aside from each other. This is pretty much just your average buddy-cop movie, just a lot more "Irish". So for the first Irish buddy-cop movie I've seen, it was a nice example of independent filmmaking from a first time director.