Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is an unpredictable policeman in a small Irish town. When a local murder is linked to an international drug-smuggling case, he's assigned to work with FBI Agent Everett (Cheadle), who like everyone else can't quite figure out if Boyle's a genius or an idiot. As they track down three notorious traffickers (Cunningham, Strong and Wilmot), the case gets increasingly complicated. But Boyle doesn't let it affect his private obsessions with hookers and drugs. More troublesome is his ill mum (Flanagan) and a young Croatian woman (Cas) whose husband is missing.
Despite the gritty subject matter, the film has a boldly comical attitude that sits as a prickly counterpoint to the vicious bloodshed and serious drama.
Everything is underscored with a colourful sense of irony. And the dialog is a hilarious barrage of banter as the characters continually test each other, trying to find the breaking point or provoking a specific reaction that rarely comes. These are vividly cantankerous people, and it's great fun to watch them interact.
It also helps that the cast is so sharp, anchored by the superb Gleeson, who can somehow still be loveable as an anarchic, vice-ridden slacker. But Boyle isn't a Bad Lieutenant kind of cop; Gleeson subtly shows us that he's more caring and on-the-ball than everyone around him. The pairing of Gleeson with Cheadle works brilliantly, as their brittle-dry humour bounces hilariously off each other. And Strong is one of the funniest movie grumps ever.
While playing with cop cliches, McDonagh carefully gives each character a bundle of distinct quirks while hinting at back-stories that we never quite get to see. As a result, we're gripped by every scene, wondering what we'll learn next about these people. In this sense - and because we're a step ahead of everyone - the rather uneven central plot is irrelevant. But the riotous blend of absurdity, violence and emotion keeps us thoroughly entertained right to the intensely clever ending.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 7th July 2011
Box Office USA: $5.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $5.4M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Production compaines: UK Film Council, Reprisal Films, Aegis Film Fund, Bord Scannan na hEireann / Irish Film Board
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 116 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, Don Cheadle as FBI agent Wendell Everett, Liam Cunningham as Francis Sheehy, Mark Strong as Clive Cornell, Katarina Cas as Gabriela McBride, David Wilmot as Liam O'Leary, Rory Keenan as Garda Aidan McBride, Laurence Kinlan as Photographer, Dominique McElligott as Aoife O'Carroll, Sarah Greene as Sinead Mulligan, Fionnula Flanagan as Eileen Boyle, Gary Lydon as Garda Inspector Gerry Stanton