In Bruges

2008-12-12 12:33
In Bruges
What it's about

Deceptively familiar plot this one: hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) have been sent to hide in Bruges by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to wait for his orders after they messed up a murder back in London. Veteran Ken seizes on the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing amongst the architecture, canals and cobbled streets of Belgium's most medieval town. The anxiety stricken new boy Ray hates having to play tourist. His chance meeting with a sexy con-artist called Chloe (Clémence Poésy) results in a series of escapades with a racist dwarf actor, some Dutch prostitutes and obese American tourists before their ‘vacation’ comes to a cliffhanging climax.

What we thought of it

Forget those post-Tarantino cartoons like Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Snatch. In fact, forget almost every Hollywood gangster film you’ve seen since Reservoir Dogs. No pyrotechnic action sequences, flashy crash zooms and flip-hip dialogue masking a plot-less Hollywood blockbuster here.

This is an old school British gangster flick at its best. In Bruges pivots on good, old-fashioned cinematic cornerstones: things like actual character development, dramatic (but believable) dialogue and a script that doesn’t shoot its narrative load in the opening scene.

If you’re a fan of Get Carter (the original, not the Stallone travesty), The Limey and Sexy Beast you're going to fall in love with the surreal pace of this psycho-drama. A noir crime tale of a pair of mismatched anti-heroes who philosophise their way through a "vacation" in Belgium while waiting for orders to come home from their boss sounds familiar, doesn't it? A simple noir spin on Irish playwright Samuel Beckett's existential classic Waiting for Godot, maybe? Sure. But also a whole lot more.

Playwright-turned director Martin McDonagh's vision is unapologetically literate. For starters, his own choice of odd couple assassins waiting for the intervention of a higher power actually pays homage to playwright Harold Pinter's quintessential gangster black comedy The Dumb Waiter.

The "exiles" also reference Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Add a sequence which quotes an entire scene from Orson Welles' 1958 noir classic Touch of Evil and you start to appreciate that In Bruges isn't just another gangster flick. It's an artful deconstruction of the gangster flick genre and its cartoonish crime world tropes.

The subtext is simple. If you're a film noir buff, then you'll know what to expect: an existential morality play about hard men getting to prove just how hard they really are. "I hated history, didn't you? It's all just a load of stuff that's already happened" is Ray's retort to Ken's suggestion they expand their minds by exploring "The most well-preserved medieval city in Belgium." Subtext: he's crapping himself because he blew his first hit.

If you're a Pinter aficionado you'll know that it's the existential subtext itself that really counts. The repressed emotion simmering beneath the duo's seemingly innocuous tourist talk is where the real drama lies.

Fabulous. But what if you're not a noir or theatre buff? Well, the acting is impressive. Farrell delivers just the requisite bipolar blend of ruggedness and sensitivity. He clearly learned a trick or two about comic timing from playing a similar role in Woody Allen's half-baked Cassandra's Dream. Gleeson's the ideal counterfoil, registering Ken's fraternal crisis with a raised eyebrow here or a mere grimace there.

And then there's Ralph Fiennes, who plays the brutal, but code-bound crime boss Harry with a hopped up glee last worn by Gary Oldman in True Romance. Finally, let’s not forget In Bruges is fundamentally a black comedy. The scene where Ken and Ray get ripped with a dwarf actor and some Dutch prostitutes is, as Empire magazine's Damon Wise called it: "F**ked-up, far-out and very, very funny".

- Miles Keylock

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A pair of Irish hitmen hiding out in a fairytale Belgian city after a botched London hit wait for orders from their pissed off mob boss.

Arno 2008/09/26 8:26 AM
In Bruges! This has, by some margin, been the worst movie I've ever seen. Mind numbingly boring, scizofrenic at times and just plain dull. Don't waste you time!
Reed 2008/09/26 9:53 AM
Colin Farrell!!! This movie looks (and sounds) great! I’d watch anything with Colin Farrell anyway. Count me in!
Katie 2008/09/26 10:22 AM
In Bruges Originality scores very high in my books.
John 2008/09/26 5:58 PM
Wicked film I'm not a film buff, but this was one of the funniest films i've seen for a while. There is some violence as you would expect from a movie about hitmen, but its absolutely brillant! Black comedy is not for everyone, english/european comedy is not for everyone, but if you are a fan of those, you'll love this.
cherryl 2008/09/27 2:52 PM
In Bruges great movie - I loved it! Colin Farrell is an amazing actor
Kosta 2008/09/27 5:55 PM
Bloody brilliant!!! Funny, dark & original. Loved every moment, pity there was a blackout at Cedar Square (4th time this week) so I missed the last 5 minutes. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!!!! AAAAAAAAARRRRRGG!!!!
Jacques 2008/09/29 8:02 AM
Reviewer out of touch Forget Lock Stock & Snatch, Reservoir Dogs? Man - those three movies are a million times better than this forgetful film. And how is Reservoir dogs a pyrotechnic action film ? Have you actually seen it? 90% percent of the movie plays off in an abandoned warehouse - no explosions! All three examples given have a ton of plot.. it really just seems like this reviewer is out of touch.
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