Full disclosure: I’ve always disliked Colin Farrell. His resume is filled with bad movies, and when he somehow ends up in a good film he’s usually the worst part in it. However, this film has changed my outlook completely. Colin Farrell is so astonishingly good, so impeccably cast, that I actually look forward to the next Colin Farrell film. Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is just that good.
Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Farrell) are both hit men. I’m pretty sure that this is an occupation that only exists in the movies, but whatever. What makes them different from most hit men, however, is the fact that they seem like fairly ordinary people--kind of like Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction, rather than the elite killers found in such films as Assassins. Ray, especially, acts like you think a criminal actually might act. It’s rather refreshing.
Having finished their last job, their boss, Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) sends them--sentences them, if you will--to Bruges, a medieval town in Belgium. Ken, the older of the two, is able to make the best out of it, and turns it into a site-seeing trip. Ray, on the other hand, thinks Bruges is purgatory.
Ray is a real shit. He acts somewhat like a child with ADD, and, as I said, it’s Farrell’s best performance. I hesitate to suggest that this might be because Farrell is more like Ray than, say, Alexander the Great. But who knows. In Bruges, he finds only two things that interest him--the chance for sex (which he finds with Chloe, a native of the area) and gawking at a dwarf who’s in town for a film (“They’re filming midgets!” Ray says). When he isn’t around Chloe or Jimmy (the midget), he’s generally pouting or getting himself into trouble. We do learn, however, that there is a reason for his attitude--everything did not go smoothly during Ray’s last mission, and his conscience weighs heavily on him. His petulant attitude, perhaps, disguises the turmoil inside.
Farrel isn't the only great character, though. Brendan Gleeson is always reliable, and plays Ray's grown-up partner with just the right amount of seriousness, while Ralph Fiennes (seemingly on a break from dour period pieces) is suitably intimidating and brutish as their boss, Harry.
Most of the humour in In Bruges comes from Ray, and hits its mark. There’s a great scene--unfortunately spoiled in the trailer--where he tries to tell some obese American tourists that they should avoid the narrow, winding stairs that lead to the top of the medieval church. His lack of subtlety (and the Americans’ lack of good sense) lead to an altercation that should make anyone laugh heartily (except, perhaps, uptight and overweight Americans). All of the humour makes the graphic violence near the end of the film all the more shocking.
In Bruges isn’t without its flaws, though. The ending is a little too perfect, and sometimes that humour falls flat. When going for laughs, McDonagh’s film swings for the fences, and so when it misses, the silence is deafening. While Ray’s obsession with midgets, for instance, is humorous, said midget’s obsession with an oncoming racial war seems tacked on, like McDonagh needed something zany to add to fill space, and it was the best he could come up with.
The Focus Features DVD presents In Bruges in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and comes with a few featurettes. Most notably among these is “Fucking Bruges,” a compilation of all the swears in the film. This is good for a quick chuckle, and also draws attention to the fact that In Bruges must be one of the most expletive-filled films out there. I’d highly recommend checking it out.