Gleeson delivers as schlubby, corrupt cop

With everyone fussing about who the new, fresh faces are at Sundance, not much has been said about one of the older, less fresh faces who is nonetheless emerging as one of the festival’s early delights: Brendan Gleeson, the 56-year-old Irish actor who was once told by a Hollywood agent that he was “too old and too ugly” for movies, and who is the star of the much-buzzed-about THE GUARD, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother of IN BRUGES writer-director Martin McDonagh). A cross between Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, etc.), by way of Ireland, THE GUARD is one of the most dementedly fun movies screened so far at Sundance, and has excited huge interest both in buyers and audiences—the 9:30 a.m. screening on Saturday was packed to the gills.

Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle, a schlubby, corrupt cop in Galway, who, in the very first scene, finds an ecstasy tab in the pocket of a man killed in a car accident, pops it into his mouth, and declares solemnly: “What a beautiful fuckin’ day.” And we’re off! The film also stars Don Cheadle as an uptight FBI agent forced to work with Boyle on a drug trafficking case, but the film belongs to Gleeson, in all his tubby, salty, smart-ass glory. To watch him slurp up a chocolate milk shake in a diner (the Tarantino homages never cease) as a drug kingpin reads him the riot act is scrumptious fun. (The joke’s beat plays on, as he proceeds to bury his head in his hands and complain of a “milkshake headache.”)

No newcomer to the screen, Gleeson has been in almost everything, but—until now—typically playing small, character-actor roles in Hollywood blockbusters (HARRY POTTER) and historical dramas (GANGS OF NEW YORK).

All we can say is:  Ricky Gervais move over!

For more of Nicole’s dispatches at the Sundance Film Festival see her
blog on
The Daily Beast.