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In honor of John McDonagh’s latest film, the literate, brilliant CALVARY, we take a look back at my chat with him here in San Francisco about THE GUARD from 2011. Once again starring world-treasure, and McDonagh family go-to actor Brendan Gleeson (IN BRUGES for brother Martin McDonagh), CALVARY plumbs the depths and contradictions of the human soul with visceral grace and an uncompromising sense of truth. If Gleeson, as the good, but imperfect, priest, and McDonagh, as the filmmaker who created him, don’t get every award nomination out there, there is no justice. But then again, as someone in the film notes, and without rancor, but rather with a nascent sense of wonder, things aren’t fair, they just are.
If you haven’t seen it, you should. If you haven’t seen THE GUARD, you should. If you haven’t seen IN BRUGES, well, you get the point.
John McDonagh garnered acclaim for his screenplay, NED KELLY, but didn’t like the way it was translated to the big screen. The experience gave him the perfect impetus to come up with a screenplay that he could direct himself. Conceived as a low-budget project that would allow him the artistic freedom he craved, THE GUARD also afforded him a crash course in working on the fly. When I spoke with the writer/director on June 21, 2011, we talked about the obstacles of using guns as props when shooting on location in Ireland, why Don Cheadle makes it okay to go out on a limb when dealing with race relations, and why Irish boys, or at least one, rides a pink bicycle.
THE GUARD, a crisp and bracing buddy film about political correctness, international relations, and doing the right thing. All those things are centered in the person of Sgt Gerry Boyle, played by Brendan Gleeson, the eponymous Irish guard, or policeman in American, whose quiet life of fighting minor crime is interrupted with a brutal murder, a new partner from the big city, and an American FBI Agent and stickler for procedure, Wendell Everett, tasked with thwarting a drug cartel’s latest operation, slated to happen in Boyle’s turf. The uneasy partnerships, his unorthodox, but not unwarranted approach to justice, and the touching, but not treacly, relationship he has with his seriously ill mother all conspire to make a darkly funny thriller that mixes melancholy with absurdity and an unswerving moral compass. The film co-stars Don Cheadle, Fionnula Flanagan, Liam Cunningham, Rory Keenan, Gary Lydon, David Wilmont, and Mark Strong. McDonagh’s directed from his own script. His previous work includes writing the screenplay for NED KELLY, which starred Heath Ledger as the Australian outlaw, which garnered nominations for best screenplay from the Australian Film Institute and the Film Critics Circle of Australia,
Click here to listen to the interview (17:49) THE GUARD — John McDonagh.