PIFF: In Bruges

In Bruges is a often hilarious, sometimes strained, almost tearfully tragic, but always entertaining yarn from first-time director Martin McDonagh. It’s an intimate story of two hitmen, the seasoned veteran Ken (played by Brendan Gleeson) and the first timer Ray (played with Colin Farrell), exiled to the Belgium city of Bruges after a hit has gone wrong.

Though we don’t at first learn what went wrong on the hit, those events weigh heavily on Ray, exasperated by the boredom of Bruges. Ken is turned into a wide-eyed kid, lapping up the fantasy that the city offers: old churchs, medieval architecture, coffee shops, pubs and great beer.

As their time in the city drags on, we learn why the two were sent there from their boss Harry (played by a very plastic looking, yet ferocious Ralph Fiennes). Turns out Ray accidentally killed a kid on that hit. That guilt nearly consumes him, but if not for a midget actor and a sexy female con artist/drug dealer (Clemence Poesy).


It’s a testament to McDonagh’s skills as a writer that all of this never seems too absurd or cliched, even when it actually is. He writes deft word play and the actors chew up each delicious line. Lines like, “If I was retarded and grew up on a farm Bruges would inpress me, but I didn’t. So it doesn’t.” To hear that come out of Colin Farrell is just one of this picture’s delights.

Colin Farrell has never been better. The man has charisma to burn, but directors never really know what to do with him. Here he is supremely funny, consumed with emotional baggage and tiptoes between those two extremes. Gleeson for his part, plays Ken with a sort of reverence. His soul is calm and he is the anchor for the whole picture. It’s his unwillingness to kill Ray (there reason for the exiled vacation) that sets the tragic denouement into motion.

There’s blood, but nothing extreme. You actually feel the violence far more in this picture even if there isn’t much violence occurring. McDonagh makes everything count and keeps the picture moving at a brisk pace, so that when a major coincidence takes place – one that would doubtfully happen in real life – it’s easy to gloss over.

Even if Ray felt like Bruges was the personification of eternal damnation, this picture is far from hellish. In fact it’s quite the opposite.

In Bruges (Focus Features) is in theaters now in limited release. Which means if you can see it, you absolutely should. There aren’t many better movies in theaters at the moment and probably won’t be until the summer popcorn arrives.

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