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A unlikable hero holds our attention in The Guard
A man of appetites
Marvelous, edgy fun.
Marvelous, edgy fun.

At first I had real concerns about the Irish action comedy The Guard, because its hero seemed so unlikable. The policeman Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) ingests drugs he steals from corpses. He romps with prostitutes. He drinks and plays videogames on the job. He tells racist jokes. But I worked through my concerns, and I'm glad, because The Guard is funny and rewarding.

Writer and director John Michael McDonagh's film is about a craven, comically portrayed gang of drug smugglers and the cops trying to shut them down. One of the cops is African American FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle, who has a producer credit). He works with Gerry on the case, and The Guard turns out to be a buddy-cop movie that, like Walter Hill's 48 Hrs., has marvelous, at moments edgy fun with racial tension.

Gerry is a man of appetites, and part of The Guard's pleasure is watching him bring a little style to the way he feeds them. He's the kind of guy who dons (admittedly garish) coat and tie when it's time to meet the hookers. He also pursues unexpected hobbies, like the serious open-water swimming that ends up having some bearing on the plot. In a lesser film a goofball detail like that wouldn't work. It does here.

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