Written and Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Poesy, Jordan Prentice
Rated: Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, and some drug use.
Parental Notes: This is not a film for youngsters. The violence in it is graphic in a realistic way rather than a cartoony one, and thus fairly disturbing.
Bruges, for those who have missed the previews for the film, is in Belgium, and is the best-preserved medieval city in the country. It looks, as more than one character in “In Bruges” observes, like something out of a fairy tale. It’s all cobbled streets, medieval towers, and museums full of gruesome paintings of sinners being punished.
Sinners being punished is a central theme of the film. Hit men Ray (Colin Farrell, “Miami Vice”) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”) have been sent to Bruges by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes, also last seen in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”) after Ray thoroughly botched a hit in the UK. They’ve been ordered to play tourist and wait for Harry to call. Ray feels this is unreasonably cruel, possibly because there is nothing in Bruges to distract him from his guilt and self-flagellation. Ken’s punishment is to keep hothead Ray out of trouble while trying to actually enjoy the sights himself.
Their time in Bruges starts to look a bit better to Ray when he runs across a film crew. He’s delighted, especially when he spots the gorgeous Chloe (Clemence Poesy, yet another Harry Potter alumn) and a dwarf, Jimmy (Jordan Prentice). Although he starts on shaky footing with both, he winds up dating Chloe and sharing cocaine with Jimmy, who winds up ranting about the coming race war which will pit (among others) all the white dwarfs against all the black ones.
Ray’s first date with Chloe may well set a record for honesty — he tells her he’s a hit man, and she tells him she sells drugs to film crews. Then she takes him home, where her skinhead ex-boyfriend tries to rob him, much to her dismay (she told the skinhead not to come tonight; they rob disposable tourists together, not guys she actually likes). Ray disables the skinhead and despairs that he just knew a girl like her (“someone nice”) couldn’t like a guy like him. She insists she likes him quite a bit and asks him to wait for her while she takes her ex off to the hospital.
Just when things seem to be looking up for Ray, Harry calls. I wouldn’t dream of giving away what he wants — “In Bruges” is one of those rare gems where you cannot tell from the first few minutes how the remainder of the film is going to go, and that is to be treasured. I will say this: the plot grows in a beautifully organic way out of the characters, who are incredibly peculiar and yet somehow also very believable, possibly because they are so consistent.
“In Bruges” is a delight, provided you can handle the fairly graphic violence (gunshots and a person plummeting to one of those beautiful cobblestone streets). It is by turns darkly comic, tragic, slapsticky, sweet, insane, and drenched in brutality. It is not to be missed by anyone who is feeling jaded by the standard Hollywood pap.