In Bruges is a gloomy, bloody, and unashamedly un-pc black comedy written and directed by acclaimed British playwright Martin McDonagh (in his feature film debut.)
The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as Ray and Ken, two Irish hitmen who are sent to the medieval Belgium town of Bruges by their boss Harry (a f-bomb dropping Ralph Fiennes who fails to imitate Ben Kingsley from Sexy Beast) after a botched hit by the pair in London resulted in the death of a child.
Ken loves Bruges, and enthusiastically takes in the art, architecture, and culture which the small city simply oozes, thus we the viewer are also taken back by Bruges’ simplistic beauty.
Unless, however, you are like Ray, who feels enormous guilt and suicidal tendencies over the child’s death by his hand and views his time in Bruges as punishment for his sins, a sort of purgatory if you will. This, however, does not contain his bad case of verbal diahorrea which results in the wrath of obese American tourists and snobby Canadian tourists. All the while he develops a romance with local hustler Chloe (Clemence Poesy) and an obsession with a racist, movie star dwarf (Jordon Prentice).
In Bruges strength is McDonagh’s script, which is packed with extremely dark and poignant humour. The films strong dialogue is enhanced by the chemistry between its actors, especially Farrell and Gleeson who are one of the more entertaining pair of hitmen since Pulp Fiction.
Acting wise the film also shines. Farrell has not been this good since the promise of his breakthrough year back in 2002 (which featured Phone Booth and Minority Report, for those who forgot). He hits every note required to make his multi-layered character work, and as a result he provides a highly comical yet also crushingly depressing turn.
The always solid Brendan Gleeson is right there with Farrell, yet the less said about Ralph Fiennes and his poor man Don Logan impression the better.
Where the film eventually falters – and boy does it ever – is in McDonagh’s unsteady direction. Much more experienced hands were needed to juggle the films mish-mash of styles, which if placed in the right hands – say a Danny Boyle or even a Guy Richie – could have brought about an entertaining and unique entry in the crime and comedy genres. Instead, what is represented is an at times funny, often violent, and depressingly bleak film which is dragged further down the doldrums thanks to a mournful piano score by the usually solid Carter Burwell.
So, what is left is an at times promising yet rather uneventful film which has left a small crack in my heart, since I heard and read good things and came into it with the highest of expectations. It was a joy to watch Colin Farrell rekindle the magic seen in his earlier performances, though.