“You certain are an unconventional police officer,” says FBI agent Wendell (Don Cheadle) to Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), a cop in the Western Ireland village of Connemara in The Guard. And the only fitting response is, “No freaking kidding.” There’s a bit of a mismatched-buddy-cop vibe to writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s hilarious story, as no-nonsense Wendell—visiting to assist in an international drug trafficking investigation—spars with Boyle, the local law who isn’t averse to grabbing and downing a tab of acid from the scene of an accident.
But the crime thriller elements are almost a distraction to what’s really the focal point here: a comedic character piece that lets Gleeson unleash law-enforcement anarchy in a terrific performance fueled by McDonagh’s tart dialogue. While the trio of drug dealers (including Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong) have their moments as well, sharing philosophical quotes or fuming over cops who don’t understand the niceties of getting paid off to look the other way, the crime elements often feel like the stuff that has to be here to give us an excuse to spend time with this funny, frisky, thoroughly unconventional cop. With this many laughs as part of the experience, no excuse is actually required.
Full disclosure: Long-distance relationships have pretty much defined my romantic life, both with happy and unhappy endings. And director/co-writer Drake Doremus gets so many things piercingly perfect in his little heartbreaker Like Crazy. As college seniors, Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) share a perfect first date that turns into a passionate romance. Anna is British, and her visa will expire at graduation, but only doing something crazy—like overstaying that visa by two months to spend more time together—could eventually come between them.
From the outset, Yelchin and Jones turn in performances that capture what will make this connection both perfect and perhaps doomed. And Doremus makes choice after choice that finds the idea focus, including choosing never to show the couple making love. The result is a film full of tiny perfections: the sense of disconnection that comes from separation; the inevitable doubts and suspicions; the way some things can continue just because you want so badly for them to work. It’s a movie to fall in love with, because of the way it conveys a certain kind of love.