In Bruges

In Bruges

Film review by: Witney Seibold

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            Bruges is a small tourist town in Belgium, boasting some of the best-maintained medieval architecture in all of Europe. It’s quiet and genial and pleasant place full of smiling inhabitants and quaint small-town character. Think of a more authentic version of Solvang, CA. Just arrived in Bruges are two Irish hitmen, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell). Ken, the older and wiser of the two, seems to take to Bruges right away, absorbing the local color, sightseeing, and grinning like a damn fool the entire time. Ray, conversely young and callow, is clearly a city mouse, and longs for something real to do in Bruges. Ray refers to history as “just a bunch of stuff that happened.”

 

            Why are two Irish hitmen in Bruges of all places? We eventually learn they are hiding out after a botched hit, and they are waiting for further instructions from their shortfused boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Eventually Ray finds something to do on a visiting film set in the form of the comely drug-dealing PA named Chloë (Clémence Poésy). Ray also meets an American dwarf actor (Jordan Prentice) who is appearing in the visiting film’s dream sequence, a situation which only calls to mind Peter Dinklage’s dream dwarf rant from “Living in Oblivion.”

 

            Eventually the two hitmen begin to slow down to Bruges’ more leisurely pace, and they begin discussing their life views (the elder is more at peace with his station, the younger practically suicidal with guilt). Eventually, Harry also shows up to complicate matters.

 

            Despite being about hitmen, having several shootout scenes, being full of occasional bouts of brutal violence padded only by melancholy discussions about sin and death, “In Bruges” is actually very funny. Ray and Ken are perfect foils for each other, and approach the little backward town just like any bored backward Irish tourist. That the innocent love interest is also a glib drug dealer, and there turns out to be more opportunities for vice in a little innocent place like Bruges than one would expect only add to the comic absurdity of the film at large. Fiennes also shows that in addition to being a good actor with a firm grasp of “creepy,” “intense,” and occasionally “charming,” he can also deftly handle “funny.” Who knew Fiennes was a comedian as well?

 

            Writer/director Martin McDonough is a veteran stage director who won an Academy Award in 2005 for his short film “Six Shooter.” I didn’t see “Six Shooter,” but according to my girlfriend who did it was dull and turgid. In some of “In Bruges’” talkier scenes, and in its unexpectedly violent ending, I can see some of that turgidness creeping through. Luckily the humor pace and intelligence of the material save it.

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Published in: on February 26, 2008 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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