Provided with the right situation, profane dialogue and a hefty dose of pitch black humour Brendan Gleeson is in his element.
Here all building blocks are in place and Gleeson does not disappoint.
Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is an unorthodox Policeman or Garda in Southern Ireland. He interprets the law as he deems fit according to the circumstances. Anyone residing more than a few miles away is considered an outsider and those from Dublin, too fancy, with new fangled ideas and not to be trusted.
Chancing upon the opening car crash, the local boy is stripped of drugs to prevent his “Mammy” from finding out he was high at the time, with a select tab or two squirreled away for the sergeants own recreation. Morally ambiguous at best although Boyle’s heart is in the right place, he certainly knows right from wrong, a distinction many of his colleagues appear unable to make.
When the FBI turn up to investigate an ongoing big drug deal, Doyle is able and willing to let go with every stereotypical and racist comment he has stored up. Unloading them with a twinkle in his eye, on the unsuspecting and increasingly incredulous agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle). Everett is a fish nowhere even close to water, with Boyle indifferent or ahead of him at every turn.
Most locals ignore the agent’s questioning because he does not speak Gaelic, is not in the Behavioral Science Unit and is obviously “different” to local folk.
On paper this appears crude, rude and off the politically incorrect scale and in lesser hands this would not work. Somehow, like “In Bruges” this does mostly hit the mark. The drug dealers are comic but ruthless, Liam Cunningham, bug eyed David Wilmot and Mark Strong, who like Gleeson, swears better than just about anyone else on screen.
The story takes turns you might not expect, Boyle “hoors” and drinks his way through life whilst caring for his elderly mother. Fionnula Flanagan is quite exquisite in short scenes, that are all the more effective as the dialogue is so minimal.
Cheadle manages to be believable, deftly side stepping all the easy pitfalls such a part might present and provides a neat foil to the sad sack but happy Boyle, who may or may not be “as dumb as he looks”. This is not so much a buddy/buddy movie, Boyle is no-ones buddy and is clearly unlikely to change anytime soon.
Not to everyone’s taste perhaps, the “F Word” gets a real work out but somehow always said with real skill rather than with any offensive intent. The characters are not supposed to be wholly believable, think “Local Hero” with the “F Bomb” and AK47’s. The scenery is bleak, wet and solid, there is no messing about here, the blue line is thin indeed.
There is a sub plot vaguely involving the IRA which appears to help the story but is unresolved as to Boyle’s motivation. Some of the scenes are not milked for all the humour potential but overall you may find yourself laughing and then wondering if you really should.
There is quotable dialogue throughout, “When I applied for the position of Drug Dealer, manual labour was not in the job description”, Strong is at pains to point out or Boyle offering as an excuse, “I’m Irish. Racism is part of my culture”
From the writer/director John Michael McDonagh who is the brother of Martin McDonagh director of “In Bruges”, clearly the family has a way with dialogue and the talent has obviously been shared around. Every caricature and affectation is punctured before the balloon even leaves the ground.
Pitch black humour, with a star turn from Gleeson, an authentic Irish setting and excellent support, there is much to enjoy in this dark comedy drama.
If you can handle the accent and can soak up the earthy dialogue, this one is for you, nearly as good as “In Bruges”, which is high recommendation indeed.