Friday, March 19, 2010

Archive: 'In Bruges'

Movie Review
In Bruges (2008)

Going into this movie, I didn't know where Bruges (pronounced "broozh") is located, and apparently, neither do many people within the movie. Well, Bruges is a so-called "shithole" city in Belgium where the two main characters, who are both hitmen, are sent to hide-out after a certain hit goes terribly wrong in London. "In Bruges" is a twisted pleasure, a movie that is at times bizarre and comic while at other times dark and touching.

The two hitmen are the hot-headed Ray (Colin Farrell) and the older, gentler Ken (Brendan Gleeson). Ray openly cannot stand the idea of having to stay in Bruges for a projected two weeks. He rolls his eyes at Ken's desire to sightsee and would rather get drunk at the pubs. The movie does an interesting thing with Bruges, which is a beautiful medieval city with museums, canals, and buildings from the 12th century. It uses the city to aid in the storytelling and the development of its two central characters without appearing to be merely a tour of the place.

Through hints in the dialogue, there is a lot suggested about each of these killer's backgrounds. And there couldn't be any two better actors to present such complicated comic performances with an underlying conscious and soul. Gleeson brings a sense of sad humanity to Ken who obviously made some mistake in his past that still clings to him. Farrell, especially, is excellent as the tormented Ray who has undeniably good instincts but makes irrationally poor choices. With this, Farrell shows that these are the types of movies he belongs in because he's superb here. Maybe it's simply because he's able to be his Irish self.

Ken and Ray work for for a man named Harry (Ralph Fiennes) who we at first only hear through conversations over the phone. It's only much later in the film when Harry turns up in Bruges, played by a humorously ferocious Ralph Fiennes who is extremely agitated. Ray's conscious is getting eaten away by his first hit when he took out a priest in a confessional and tragically killed an innocent little boy in the process. It's an accident that constantly haunts Ray and also the reason Harry wants him to be disposed of for good. Killing a priest is simply business but killing the little boy crosses a line.

While Ken goes sightseeing, Ray becomes distracted by a film set where he meets a midget, Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), who prefers to be called a dwarf and is playing in a dream sequence of the movie being shot. Ray also meets a pretty young blond named Chloe (Clemence Poesy) who allows him to forget about all his troubles. These are only two of the colorful characters you'll meet throughout the course of "In Brudges," all of whom play a pivotal role when the sharp screenplay eventually brings everybody's destinies together in the end. The movie toys with the cliche of its own genre while, at the same time, transcends its own limitations completely.

Half the fun of this movie is just seeing how everything unfolds throughout the strange stay in Bruges, which is why there is little to explain without giving away too many twists and surprises. What's best is that these turns are brought about by the characters themselves and not by mere plot progression requirements. And the movie knows which moments of dialogue to stay with and which scenes to linger on. One scene in particular involves Ray and Ken doing cocaine with Jimmy and some prostitute he picked up. The conversation they all have is absurd and goofy, as are other moments in the film. The movie's comedy comes from simple observations in surroundings and characters, which allows for the laughs to be genuine and savored rather than small and frequent. And then the movie surprises with its times of shocking poignancy and sadness.

If "In Bruges" succeeds at anything, it's in showing that hitmen can have hearts. It's also a remarkable first outing for writer and director Martin McDonagh. His other film is a short named "Six Shooter," which won an Oscar in 2006. While there are some flaws, they can be easily overlooked thanks to strong performances and a sharp story in a unique setting. It's an excellent debut film from this playwright-turned-filmmaker and a promising start to a new career.

1 comment:

  1. i was super surprised by how much I liked this movie. its a bit offbeat and kooky but i really enjoyed it. the bets i've seen from colin farrell.