Judging from its preview trailer, “In Bruges” seems to be a black comedy cashing in on the tone and wit of successful British crime/action films like “Snatch” with too much comedic emphasis on accent humor. How sweet it is to be wrong. Despite the casting of Colin Farrell and half of the cast of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “In Bruges” succeeds in forging ahead in its own direction.
Colin Farrell plays Ray, a hit-man who botches his first job and hides out with his partner Ken (the talented Brendan Gleeson, known for portraying Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter films) in the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium. Ray’s boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), tells them to lie low in Bruges until the heat dies down. The somber, experienced Ken has no problem enjoying the culture of Bruges but Ray cannot sit with the guilt of the job gone wrong and tries to enjoy himself in the vacation fairytale town. Unfortunately, Ray is an Irishman with a temper and riles the local population. His raucous charm does not go unnoticed by Chloe (the beautiful Clémence Poésy). She is working on the set of a movie in which a dwarf actor is filming a dream sequence. When something goes wrong, Harry must come to Bruges and get his hands dirty.
Though Farrell typically throws himself seriously into his work, his roles have been unremarkable at best. Fortunately, he is given plenty to work with as the irritable, restless youngster to Gleeson’s patient experience. The dialogue in particular is witty and the movie is funny in a weird, unapologetically offensive sort of way. Characters are fleshed out in roundabout dialogue rather than dramatic exposition, and it adds a third dimension to Farrell’s, Fiennes’ and especially Gleeson’s characters. Whereas Farrell’s character is mainly reactionary, Gleeson shines in his role and is the best reason to see this movie. The plot is clever and taunts the viewer with an expected outcome on one hand and significant previous plot points on the other that change the situation.
“In Bruges” is written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Though this is his first feature-length film, McDonagh received an Academy Award for his short film “Six Shooter” in 2006, also starring Brendan Gleeson. His experience in short films is apparent in the pacing and editing of in “In Bruges.” The film is only an hour and 40 minutes long, but doesn’t feel short or contrite. This is also due to his extensive playwright experience: McDonagh has had six plays in the theater since 1997 and has won several awards, including the Oliver and Obie awards, and was nominated for a Tony award for his 2005 play “The Pillowman.”
It should be said that part of the charm of “In Bruges” is the city of Bruges itself. Exterior shots of the town landmarks are gorgeous, and its classical charm and beauty present an interesting backdrop for Gleeson’s character to enjoy and Farrell’s to despise. The slow, stringed orchestral background music fits the tone of the film perfectly, with the exception of the odd electric guitar sequence for action scenes.
Overall, the film is a mature movie that refuses to be pigeonholed in crime drama or dark comedy. McDonagh’s expert storytelling and dialogue shine in the film, and doesn’t feel excessively wordy, violent or offensive. Despite some graphic, bloody scenes (weak stomachs take note), the film is definitely worth seeing for its humor and dialogue. “In Bruges” is a surprisingly good film using the best of Colin Farrell, with an excellent supporting cast and a great plot.
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