Archie McBunker

The Guard
Pageant Theatre. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

Much of the special flavor of this roughly comedic police story seems to come from its setting—a small town in the rugged west of Ireland, a place in which the eccentricities of everyone, locals and outsiders alike, can run rampant.

But this feature-film debut of writer-director John Michael McDonagh isn’t very deeply concerned with social satire, let alone genuine local color. Instead, that comic provincialism is mostly an excuse for indulging the exuberant political incorrectness of its title character, a small-town policeman played by the quasi-Rabelaisian Brendan Gleeson.

Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is described in the film’s publicity as a small-town cop “with a confrontational personality, a subversive sense of humor, a dying mother, a fondness for prostitutes, and absolutely no interest whatsoever in the international cocaine-smuggling ring that has brought straight-laced FBI agent Wendell Everett to his door.” All of that is true enough, up to a point.

But a great deal of the story turns on the serio-comic relationship that develops between Boyle and agent Everett, played with cautious good humor by Don Cheadle. And that dying mother (played by the regal Fionnula Flanagan) is a defiantly ribald character herself, to whom Boyle is utterly devoted.

On top of that, the drug-smuggling portion of the plot brings much else to Boyle’s door—the murder of a youthful colleague and some patently bizarre confrontations with a gang of drug runners whose assorted eccentricities fit a little too neatly into McDonagh’s overly indulgent gallery of comic-ironic rogues.

The systematic quirkiness of McDonagh’s script is so relentless that its assault on stereotypes, cinematic as well as regional, ends up feeling simplistic and glib. An excellent and very entertaining cast only partly makes up for that.