Warning: Profanity to follow.
After I saw fucking In Bruges I walked out cursing like a fucking motherfucker.
It’s not something you can help. There sure is a lot of language in the fucking movie, and like it even says itself, it’s fucking addicting once you get started.
In Bruges tells the tale of two Irish hitman, high strung Ray (Colin Farrell) and old and wizened Ken (Brendan Gleeson). They just got done with a botched hit, one where Ray managed to take out the target but also tagged a little boy. The kid died, and Ray’s a mess now. That’s what Ken gets for bringing a fucking amateur along.
Their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) wants them to lay low so he sends them to the most out-of-the-way place imaginable, the town of Bruges, which is located in Belgium. It’s the most well-preserved medieval city in the country, a truly beautiful place. They get checked into a nice little hotel and find out that they’re expected to stay there for 2 weeks until things settle down.
Right from the start Ray’s not happy about his forced vacation. He’s from Dublin and needs to be in a real city, not in this lame, touristy Belgium shithole. While it’s a stunning place, its beauty is lost on him. Why? Cause his depression rules over everything but his stupid mouth.
For a guy laying low, he sure gets in a lot of fights. He just has no social skills whosoever, and is constantly saying things that make people want to take a swing at him. Ken tries his best to keep him safe and cheered up but nothing can do it, not the pub, not the promise of a date with a local Belgium drug dealing vixen, not the fact that they’re shooting a movie with midgets nearby.
And then they get a call from their boss that throws everything further into the shitter.
You can’t really tell what to expect from the trailers to this one. I’m not familiar with director Martin McDonagh’s work, because while he won an Oscar for his previous short film Six Shooter (also starring Brendan Gleeson, so you can bet I’m going to download that sucker on iTunes) he’s done nothing else in film. He’s much more known for his plays, which are some of the most critically acclaimed for such a young playwright. He’s also apparently known for his tonal shifts, and it sure shows it here. It’s alternately funny, dramatic, and violent- light and dark, and sometimes all in the same scene. While it all works well for the most part, it can make some of the more supposedly shocking character moments feel contrived and meaningless, and also predictable.
One of the biggest problems with this movie is that it focuses far too much attention on Farrell’s character. In recent discussions on our messageboard people talked about how some judge a film more harshly if its protagonists were unlikable. It’s not usually a question of an unlikable character ruining a movie for me, but it definitely hurts to have an annoying one. Here Collin Farrell plays a racist, stupid manchild, one who whines and whines and will cry at the drop of a hat like a little boy lost. But at the same time we’re supposed to feel sympathy for him and what he’s been through? Fuck all that. His arc rings hollow, and really, he shouldn’t have all the screen time he does. He’s a secondary character in the film.
No, the real person of interest is Brendan Gleeson’s Ken. The story really is all about him… he is the glue that holds this film together. Within him is the easiest character to relate to, the strongest performance. It’s all about his journey, his trying to right his wrongs, but it’s unfortunately overshadowed at times by Ray’s parts which are only really there for comic relief. Gleeson has always been incredible at allowing his characters to speak just through their actions, and is completely sympathetic here as a sadder, older hitman who’s seen too much in his life. A really amazing performance.
Besides these main characters there are a handful of others thrown into the mix with no real substance of their own. There’s the vapid love interest for Ray, the dwarf he makes fun of and fights with (who has no acting ability), the admittedly hysterical alcove-obsessed arms dealer. There’s a pregnant woman who owns the hotel whose only role is to show just how sad Ray gets whenever he sees her belly. They seem added to the film for nothing else than to keep it going during the slow parts, of which there are a bunch.
And then of course there’s Ralph Fiennes. He plays the hitman’s boss as an unhinged individual who’s just barely holding back his anger at all times, a real cunt, as Ken points out later on. He’s menacing, growling, and completely fucking steals every scene he’s in. He just seems like he’s having so much fun with the role. The movie kicks back into life when he finally shows up later on, and doesn’t stop till the end.
But as much as I’ve been down on the film here, it frequently is very funny. While Ray is annoying he throws out some truly classic lines. Everything Fiennes spits out in anger is GOLD. Just be prepared for jokes on every race, religion, and creed here. Americans get attacked quite a bit in funny ways, as are blacks and dwarfs… sometimes in the same sentence. Just wait for the conversation on the white vs. black dwarf war that’s coming.
Also, being a horror nut you just know I have to mention the gore. There’s not more than a few instances of it but when it hits, it sure as hell doesn’t disappoint. Limbs are splashed around the street and there’s even a beautiful example of what happens when a dum-dum bullet goes up against a human head (hint: the head doesn’t win). It’s quite a surprise after the alternately slow and thoughtful rest of the film, and left the audience jumping a bit in their seats, disgusted, while I laughed and grinned.
I’d be remiss not to mention how much of a character the city is. They shot everything on location, and Bruges really is a beautiful place. You can only imagine how much more tourism will be coming to ruin the place because of this film. But you get a real feel for the city from the film, and it’s lovingly photographed everywhere here… feeling sometimes like one of the best goddamn travel ads you’ve ever seen.
With a little tighter editing this could have been a great film. In Bruges isn’t perfect, but it’s a pretty fucking good movie.