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Review: In Bruges

In Bruges
8 10

PLOT: After a situation arises from a recent hit, two hit men, Ken and Ray, are sent to Bruges for a couple weeks of vacation. Once there, they are ordered to wait for a phone call from the man in charge. The fairy tale streets of the medieval city seem to enchant Ken, while Ray can’t wait until he gets back to London. That is until he meets a young lady named Chloe who may or may not be part of a local film crew. When Harry, the man in charge finally calls, he has some disturbing news for the two. It is then, decisions have to be made and Ray and Ken find where their loyalties stand.

REVIEW: From the trailer for IN BRUGES (pronounced “broozh”) you might expect a clever and hysterically dark comedy about hit men hiding out. And the truth is, it is really funny. But what the trailer doesn’t tell you is how deadly serious it gets. There is a wonderful dreamlike world created by Martin McDonagh who won an Academy Award for his 2006 live action short film SIX SHOOTER. But be warned, this dream world that haunts the medieval town of Bruges soon turns bleak and sad. Yet it never looses it’s sense of humor. Much of that can be credited to McDonagh’s sharp script with some terribly smart and witty dialogue. You can also credit some wonderful work from the cast including Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleeson as the two hit men. I also can’t forget the frighteningly hilarious turn by Ralph Fiennes. It is such a pleasure to hear dialogue like this, spoken by this caliber of talent.

After a botched hit, Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Gleeson) find themselves in Bruges. It is a historic city in Belgium with museums and canals where the two men are asked to stay and wait for a phone call from Harry (Fiennes). Once there, Ken seems at ease with the “vacation” and welcomes the chance to sight see. But Ray views the city as a punishment. He is unimpressed with the history and the architecture. He counts the days until he can return to London. He points this with some incredibly funny dialogue. But like much of this film, there is more than meets the eye. There is a sadness in Ray, one which is slowly revealed as the story unfolds. And even Ken is subject to distress when their boss Harry finally calls.

The city of Bruges truly is a major character here. It’s a brilliant setting that is captured beautifully by McDonagh. And Ray and Ken’s very different relationship with their surroundings is funny and sometimes incredibly touching. At first, the city seems pretty wondrous as the two find themselves amongst the gothic settings. But as we find out more behind the hit that went wrong, it becomes a dreary and dangerous place. It feels as much alive as the human elements in the film.

As far as the human element is concerned, you couldn’t do much better than this cast. Gleeson is wonderful as the aging hit man who somehow manages to notice all the beauty in life. Fiennes, who only appears in the last half of the film, is worth the wait. But amongst the three main actors, I really loved Mr. Farrell’s work. He is hilarious as the complaining tourist who seems to piss off everyone he deals with. But as we find out more about what really happened, we get to see an incredibly vulnerable and heartbreaking side to him. In fact, this is Colin’s best work yet. He will have you laughing your ass off one minute, then the next he may have you in tears. I also found some of the supporting players to be strong including the racist little person named Jimmy (Jordan Prentice) and the stunningly beautiful Clémence Poésy as a mysterious woman Ray meets on a film set in the stone city. There is no doubt we will be seeing her more and more.

I did have a few issues with the film. There are moments that seem really hard to believe. This is mostly in the final act where this sort of film can become cliché. Without giving anything away, when one character falls from one of the massive towers in the town, he is able to spit out a few words before dying. It is so unbelievable that I felt a tad cheated. There had to be another way to continue the story without this improbable moment. But luckily, it picks up right after that and brings it to an exciting, if somewhat predictable end. I also think the advertising hurt the film a tad. I expected a laugh out loud action comedy, but what I got was a much darker and sadder tone. It is more akin to a black comedy such as HAROLD AND MAUDE then an action shoot ‘em up with humor like LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS. But in the end, this is the movie that I would have preferred over anther hit man comedy that is all jokes and no consequence. My rating 8/10 -- JimmyO





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