“If I had grown up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”
2008. Rated R. Out on DVD. Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Poesy, Jordan Prentice and Thekla Reuten.
Not that the genre of quirky dark comedies about criminals needed another entry, but earlier this year In Bruges was released to very little fanfare despite some star power and generally decent reviews. It has the requisite laundry list of ridiculous characters — suicidal hitman, crime boss family man, racist midget, Dutch prostitute, angry Canadian, etc — and takes place and was entirely shot in Bruges, the medieval Belgian city. Essentially, all you need to know plot-wise is that two hitmen (Farrell & Gleeson) are sent to Bruges to lay low by their boss (Fiennes) after a job gone wrong in London. Hijinks, and lots of midget jokes ensue.
Farrell & Gleeson have good chemistry, and it’s nice to see Farrell once again show that he can actually act, like he did so long ago in the underrated Tigerland. Gleeson inhabits his role as usual, and is so likable that it’s tough to buy him ever being a hitman. It’s weird to hear Ralph Fiennes do a non-posh accent, but he’s actually really good in a departure from his signature roles. Prentice, as the aforementioned racist midget, is given a thankless role but is actually not bad. Poesy does an excellent job of being hot.
The characters are pretty well-defined and the dialogue is consistently sharp and witty and essentially is what makes the film work in the limited way it does. After the first 15 minutes or so, the film’s pace picks up, and McDonagh does a good job of using the location of Bruges. It’s not a great directing job, especially in the action parts and the closing sequence, but it’s competent.
However, the strengths of the film don’t completely overshadow the multiple weaknesses — the plot is very predictable and it takes awhile to get going. The ending is absolutely fucking ridiculous (which knocks it down at least a grade) and worse than that it’s so totally telegraphed that I would surprised if most of the audience didn’t see it coming. There’s also the whole token beautiful girl falls for main character for absolutely no reason subplot. Finally, much of the action is predicated on the notion that a big, bad crime boss would actually go himself, BY HIMSELF, to help clean up the situation.
In Bruges is nothing we haven’t seen before (in of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch, for example) but it’s a pleasant enough diversion. It was barely released in the U.S. and comes to DVD at a time when there are actually interesting movies in theaters, so if you miss it, well, you’re not missing a lot. But it’s better than the standard Hollywood fare and probably worth a rental, and certainly worth it on HBO or something like FX two years from now.