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Film / The Guard

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"What a beautiful fuckin' day."
Gerry Boyle, in the film's first spoken line

The Guard is a 2011 Irish action-comedy film. Starring Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle and Don Cheadle as FBI Agent Wendell Everett, it is based in the west of Ireland. When a murder victim turns up, Gerry soon discovers that he was part of a drug smuggling ring. When his rookie partner disappears, Gerry is asked by the man's wife to find out what happened. He then gets embroiled in the dealings of a drug smuggling ring and must crack the case.

The directorial debut of John Michael McDonagh. See Martin McDonagh for his brother, writer/director of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: All three of the drug traffickers are this to a certain extent. Sheehy in particular, as he offers Gerry the chance to just walk away and even respects his ideals, even though he knows full well that he now has to die.
  • Anti-Hero: Gerry is a Pragmatic Hero.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Wendell tries to get information on the villains by canvassing the locals. Nobody seems willing to help, speak English, or even acknowledge him. In desperation, he even asks a horse.
  • Arc Number: Two subversions occur:
    • O'Leary scrawls 5 1/2 onto a wall after killing the man who kicks off the plot. Turns out there was no real reason for it and he was just locked when he did it.
    • The value of the drugs is constantly being stated as half a billion. They're only worth 200 million.
      Gerry: They're always fucking overestimating!
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Wendell is repeatedly confounded with these. Towards the end, Boyle even asks him if getting shot hurts.
  • Author Appeal: Almost all the characters are well-read and cultured, including several of the villains. Given Ireland's trend toward higher learning, this isn't too much of a stretch.
  • Bald of Evil: Clive Cornell. What do you expect from a villain played by Mark Strong?
  • The Beard: Gabriella. She's aware Aidan is gay and that their marriage was just cover for him while allowing her to stay in Ireland. It doesn't mean she doesn't care about him.
  • Big Bad: Francis Sheehy-Skeffington is the leader of four drug traffickers, with Clive Cornell as The Dragon.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: The drug operation is definitively put down, but it is ambiguous as to whether Gerry survived the boat explosion. Though it is implied he has faked his death and moved on. note 
  • Blackmail: Subverted. Sheehy attempts to blackmail Gerry with photographs of him in a threesome with some prostitutes to keep him from investigating the case further. Gerry simply doesn't care. After Sheehy leaves, Gerry facepalms in frustration. Turns out, he just has brain freeze from his milkshake.
  • Blood Knight: Cornell is revealed to have a little bit of this when he jumps at the chance to join in the final battle: "You kidding me? This is better than fucking Christmas!"
  • Brick Joke:
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: It's hinted early on that Gerry's more intelligent that he lets on, but he can't seem to give a fuck about most things due to his utter discontent and boredom on the job.
  • Buddy Cop Show: It initially seems to be one between Gerry and the strait-laced, overeager Aidan, but later becomes one between Gerry and Wendell, the FBI agent.
  • Bury Your Gays: Aidan, the only gay character in the film, gets shot in the back of the head.
  • Call-Back:
    • Everett raises his hand to ask a question to Boyle just before the climax, similar to how Gerry interrupted his lecture early on in the film.
    • Cornell's last words after being shot by Boyle are "Good shot." When Boyle plays the shooting game in pub earlier, each time Boyle fires the gun, the computer also said "Good shot."
  • Casting Gag: Dubliners are mocked a lot, especially by Gerry. Brendan Gleeson is himself a Dubliner.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Gerry returns the bag of guns to the IRA, a Derringer, a Glock, and a Kalashnikov are missing. Turns out, Gerry kept hold of them and keeps the Derringer in his trousers, which he uses to dispatch O'Leary. The other two guns are used in the final shootout.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Gerry is seen playing a light gun game in the pub and is later seen out swimming. Both play major parts in the climax.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Aidan is a Closet Gay and Gabriella needs citizenship papers to stay in the country.
  • Closet Gay: Aidan. There's no clue about it until Gabriella mentions it to Gerry, since she married him for the visa and he married her to appear to be straight. And he's already dead by this point, though Sheehy implies that he knows before O'Leary shoots him.
  • Corrupt Cop: Gerry is amazingly corrupt, in that he frequents prostitutes, steals evidence, drinks and takes drugs on shift, and even returns guns to the IRA. Amazingly, he's one of the few guards in the film not on the villains' payroll. They try to bribe and blackmail him, but he simply doesn't give a shit.
  • Cowboy Cop: Gerry is unconventional in his policing methods. Given that the soundtrack sounds like something out of a western, this trope is pretty much established up from the start.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Gerry's sheer unpredictability and outlandish behavior are key to his success.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    Special Agent Everett: Y'know, I can't tell if you're really motherfuckin' dumb or really motherfuckin' smart.
  • Cultured Badass:
    • The villains like to spend car journeys discussing their favorite philosophers and have a fondness for Jazz music.
    • Gerry's got a bit of this too, being well-versed in classic literature.
      O'Leary: There's so many things I still want to do...
      Gerry: Like what, for fuck's sake? Running with the bulls in Pamplona?
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Gerry Boyle. It is an Irish movie with the lead played by Brendan Gleeson, after all. Wendell also gets in a few good quips.
    • Clive also gets his share of lines: "When I signed up for the part of international drug runner, it didn't say anything about heavy lifting".
    • Gerry seems to have inherited his snarkiness from his mother.
  • Defiant to the End: McBride, cornered, refuses to turn around for the drug traffickers, deciding to show them for the cowards they are. They shoot him, then comment on how well he took it. "He was very philosophical about it."
  • Da Chief: Inspector Stanton is a particularly incompetent version. Also he's corrupt.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: McBride speaks and acts much like an American cop. Boyle lampshades this.
    Gerry: "I'm on it, Sarge." Where does he think he is? Fuckin' Detroit?!
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When Gerry questions the point of Sheehy blackmailing him.
    Gerry: What's the point in paying me off? You'll have to pay off every other guard on the West Coast.
    Sheehy is silent, and smiles a little.
    Gerry: The lot of them?
    Sheehy: Enough as makes no odds.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Sheehy tells Gerry that he won't hear him beg for help as the place burns down around them, while he's too injured to move. He still ends up screaming Boyle's name as the latter departs, though.
  • Fetish: Invoked. Gerry has a thing for his prostitutes dressing as guards with ludicrously short skirts. He even asks them to bring handcuffs the next time.
  • Film of the Book: Discussed. After the climax, the photographer wonders if Wendell will write a book and further ponders the idea of a big screen adaptation, even lampshading a couple of tropes used by the film in the process.
  • First Day from Hell: Aidan is murdered by the gangsters at the end of his first day in town.
  • Foreshadowing: Gerry takes his mom to a carehouse after she's diagnosed with a disease that leaves her a little time left before her death. The person in charge is a black man whom he doesn't disparage or insult, which is odd considering he belittles Everett later on. It's a hint of Gerry's underlying intelligence and general badassery, as well as discontent with his job as a policeman.
  • Funny Background Event: When Gerry tells his mother about the cocaine ring and she asks if he can get her some, a priest behind them does a noticeable Double Take as he walks out the door.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Inverted. Gerry makes use of a Glock and gives Wendell an AK, both of which have reputations as being the weapons for criminals and terrorists in Ireland. He did take these from the IRA. On the other hand, a few villains make use of revolvers, Cornell favours a SIG-Sauer, which is the pistol issued to armed Gardaí, and Sheehy uses a Beretta, which has a long history of being a "Good" gun outside Italian media usage as gangster guns..
  • Greater-Scope Villain: At one point, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington warns Boyle that arresting him won't put an end to the drug operation, since there are "men behind the men."
  • Hard Gay: The reason that the IRA have a Derringer in their weapon stash. Apparently, they were the only ones able to successfully infiltrate MI5.
  • Heroic Neutral: Sums up Gerry to a tee. He just wants to enjoy his day off, and his taking on the drug traffickers is motivated partially by irritation that they killed his partner, partially because a drug trafficking case is just too much boring work
  • Hollywood Law: Subverted. "What? C'mon, man. I'm not shooting a Kalashnikov off in the middle of Ireland. It'd be an international fucking incident."
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Aoife downplays this given that she is forced to participate in a blackmailing scheme against Gerry, but she seems to genuinely like him and is a nice woman overall.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Gerry claims that he came fourth in the Seoul Olympics as a swimmer. He does demonstrate ability as a strong swimmer and may have used this skill in the climax to escape.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The drug smugglers suffer from this hugely in the film's climax. Cornell shoots at Boyle Guns Akimbo and one Mook fires Gangsta Style. Gerry takes a round to the arm and takes his time with his aim and takes out most of them.
  • The Informant: The kid who turns up from time to time informs Gerry about the stash of guns. And tries to keep the Derringer for himself.
  • Insistent Terminology: O'Leary isn't a psychopath, he's a sociopath. Though, he doesn't actually know what the difference is. He was simply told this in prison.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted in the cases of Sheehy and O'Leary.
  • Little Useless Gun: Averted by the derringer. Gerry kills O'Leary with it, though it takes him quite some time to die.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Cornell's death. He's actually kind of impressed with Gerry's marksmanship.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: When Gabriella first turns up on his doorstep, Gerry assumes that she's a hooker who has turned up on the wrong night. She doesn't seem too insulted by it and explains that she's looking for his help.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Gabriella McBride is Croatian. Everybody thinks she's Romanian. Also, the first suspect in the murder case only looks Italian.
  • My God, You Are Serious!: Stanton asks Everett if the term "liquidating" in reference to killing someone is literal. Everett chuckles for a moment, then notices Stanton still staring at him and has a moment to blink before responding in astonishment.
  • Never Found the Body: Gerry's body is never found, leaving it ambiguous as to whether he survived.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If O'Leary hadn't been sent to kill Boyle, Wendell and Boyle would not have learned the real location of where the boat was landing. Hell, if he didn't kill McBride or the initial victim in the first place, the entire operation could have been kept under wraps.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Gerry makes openly racist comments towards Wendell and initially assumes that the attractive Eastern European woman who comes to his door is a prostitute and not his missing partner's wife. With Wendell, he's mostly trying to get a rise out of him. In the end, Wendell is the only one he can trust, since the rest of the gardai have been bribed.
  • Noodle Incident: Wendell claims to have been shot three times in the past. No details are revealed.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Gerry. Wendell lampshades this.
  • One-Man Army: Gerry manages to kill most of the drug traffickers himself. However, he is clever enough to get Wendell to cover him from long range.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Gerry says this about his shoulder wound.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Gerry takes the time to look after his mother, who is dying of cancer.
    • When Gabriela, Aiden's wife, comes by Gerry's house since her husband's disappearance, he puts some effort by preparing some tea and comforting her.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Everything Gerry says at the briefing. Wendell notes that he has some balls on him for speaking to Stanton in the manner that he does.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: O'Leary's weapon is a Magnum Revolver, which he uses to threaten Gerry and dispatch McBride.
  • Running Gag: "They got that man over from the FBI." "Oooh, Behavioral Science Unit?" "...No, Drugs." Apparently the BSU's training reputation internationally precedes it.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Gerry refuses Sheehy's bribe instead keeping up the investigation.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Gerry is about to have sex with the prostitutes, then the scene shifts to something else, and this returns after they've done it.
  • The Sociopath: O'Leary was actually diagnosed as one in prison and insists on being referred to as such instead of as a psychopath despite not knowing the difference between the two. When the villains need someone killed, he's the one to pull the trigger.
  • Spiritual Successor: To In Bruges. Completely different movies, but they share the same off-the-wall and gleefully politically incorrect style of humour, as well as Brendan Gleeson in a prominent role. Director-screenwriter John Michael McDonagh is the brother of In Bruges director Martin McDonagh, who was an executive producer on The Guard.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Between the Dirty Cop's who debate a little about counting the money, the Dumb Muscle locals they end up firing, and ocassinally O'Leary Cornell feels a little bit of this.
    Cornell: I'm just fuckin sick and tired of the kind of people we have to deal with in this business.
  • Take That!: In the film’s very politically-incorrect sense of humour, Colin says there were plenty of gay men in the IRA, as it was the only way to infiltrate MI5. Gerry also aims a jab or two at the IRA.
  • Teeny Weenie: Gerry (perhaps jokingly) says his penis is very small before having sex with two prostitutes.
  • Threeway Sex: Gerry has offscreen sex with two prostitutes who are both dressed as Gardai officers.
  • Token Good Cop: Mr. Vice Guy Gerry and his partner Aidan McBride (an eager By-the-Book Cop [[spoiler:who soon winds up getting killed) are the only Gardai who actively try to solve the murder and drug investigations, while their boss and most of his other men are taking bribes to let drugs get brought into the country. Interestingly, due to his fondness for drugs and prostitutes and friendship with the local IRA, Gerry views himself as the least honest cop in the area and is shocked to learn that so many of the others are actually worse than him.
  • Trouser Space: Gerry hides a Derringer in his pants just by his groin. Though it takes some looking for.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Subverted. Stanton tells Gerry he can consider himself under suspension for a variety of snarky remarks at a briefing. Gerry simply tells him that he won't in brazen fashion and then proceeds to tell him that one of the men he's looking for is already dead.
  • Villain Respect: After McBride refuses to turn around and forces O’Leary to shoot him In the Back, the drug runners all admit that took guts.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Sheehy, Cornell and O’Leary are first introduced trying to outdo each other with quotes, and show up later hanging out in an aquarium discussing their hopes for love lives.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Gerry and Wendell, mostly due to Gerry's constant racist remarks. Though, he may be just trying to get a rise out of him.
  • Wicked Cultured: When we first meet the villains, they're quoting the philosophy of Nietzsche.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Aidan McBride. It gets him killed early on.
  • Worthy Opponent: The drug traffickers respect Gerry's integrity. Of course, this means that they decide that he must die for it. Cornell is even impressed with Gerry's marksmanship when he shoots him.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Boyle is incensed when one of his prostitute friends is beaten up. Sheehy, for his part, agrees, and tries to pass the blame off onto his associates.