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The Guard full of Irish charms

Gleeson, Cheadle team up for dark comedy

The Guard

Opens Friday at International Village

Gerry Boyle comes across as a racist. On occasion, he hires prostitutes. He curses like a dock worker, back when women didnt curse but dock workers did. And somehow, Brendan Gleeson makes Gerry lovable: just the kind of guy we want to see make a clean getaway.

Sgt. Gerry Boyle, as hes better known, is the self-proclaimed last of the independents in Galway, Ireland. He has a deep mistrust of his fellow policemen from Dublin, with their fancy cell phones and computers.

So he gets a real shock when he hears that an Americanan African-American, no lessis heading to his patch of Ireland to investigate a $500 million drug deal thats about to go down in tiny Connemara.

Did you grow up in the projects? Gerry asks FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), whos actually from Wisconsin, was a Rhodes scholar and spent winters skiing in Aspen.

Wendells outrage softens as Gerrys other qualities come to the fore: hes a crack investigator, despite the sloppy work ethic; and he has a surprising history, if its true.

The men team up to solve one murder, which soon becomes two, and to intercept the drug vessel. Theyre up against three high-minded criminals (Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot) who quote Nietzsche and argue the merits of Dylan Thomas, bemoaning the fact that being sociopaths (or is it psychopaths?) doesnt allow them to mix with a better class of people.

When Wendell enlists the help of the big-city cops, Gerry quietly gathers information and does his own thing: he gives a cache of guns back to the local IRA guy and receives tips from two friendly prostitutes.

To solve the case and do the right thing puts a great big target on Gerrys back. Hes in a sea of crooked cops, and survival means knowing how to swim, figuratively and literally.

We get glimpses of Gerrys softer side as he deals with his terminally ill mother (Fionnula Flanagan), scenes that could have reeked of melodrama. But writer-director John Michael McDonagh doesnt dish out sentimentality; he also doesnt condescend to North American audiences, so youd do well to brush up on your brogue before seeing the film.

Every character is a scene-stealer; each actor shares in the greatif playfully profanescript. This is no frivolous white guy/black guy pairing. The rapport between Gleeson and Cheadle feels genuine, and the fish-out-of-water device is comically laid bare by one character towards the films end.

He does the big flicks (Harry Potter, Gangs of New York), but Gleeson picks some gems to fill in the gaps between blockbusters. The Guard reminds us of Gleesons rumpled natural talent, and pairing him with Cheadle as the incredulous straight-man results in dark comedy at its finest.