Sunday, February 24, 2008

When In Bruges

Whether you spell it with one or two "g"s
Bruges is a splendor to behold, a lovely place for a Belgian Beer and the best mussels you ever ate...

Bruges, 1998 (our room is the open window)
by Jack

Thus, it is with irony that Colin Farrell's character Ray in the film,
In Bruges, declares it a shit hole. The irony only grows as he and his hit man friend Ken explore the Medieval town and find adventure of all kinds there. Here's my favorite review of the film from the Baltimore Sun:

Twists and layers make 'In Bruges' engaging

By Chris Kaltenbach

Sun Reporter
February 15, 2008

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson play two of the nicest, most literate hit men you'd ever want to meet in Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's In Bruges. Tightly scripted and intricately plotted, the buddy film manages the neat two-step of being simultaneously profane and engaging.

Think of it as Pulp Fiction with an Irish brogue and without the jumbled timeline. But In Bruges is more than simply another film looking to recapture the magic Quentin Tarantino unleashed on movie screens 14 years ago. With smart dialogue, winning performances and multidimensional characters, it's the sort of film demanding audiences crave - but with enough action to keep everyone happy.

Plotwise, it's nothing new - merely the latest in a long line of buddy films doubling as gangster dramas. But In Bruges displays some welcome twists on established formulas, as well as a lesson in taut scriptwriting.

Farrell and Gleeson are Ray and Ken, and they open the film as comedically mismatched tourists, albeit ones who just pulled off a mob hit. Ordered by their unseen boss, Harry, to lie low in the medieval Belgian city of Bruges, their conflicting attitudes take on almost Laurel-and-Hardy proportions. Ken couldn't be more thrilled, soaking in the atmosphere, booking trips on the local tour boats, gazing in wonder at the ancient architecture. But Ray is just as miserable. Everything's gray, the buildings need a good washing and there are nosy tourists everywhere.

McDonagh has great fun building on Ken and Ray's dissimilarities, constantly positioning one character as the yin to the other's yang. Farrell and Gleeson pitch and align their performances perfectly, each feigning exasperation at the other, while never forgetting for a moment the mutual affection that will continue to pay dividends - for both them and us - as the film progresses.

There's also a constant stream of minor characters flowing through the film, including an overweight American tourist, a dwarf, a hapless thief and a doe-eyed drug supplier. Each provides welcome moments of comic relief, especially as the pace of In Bruges amps up and the violence that always seemed to be bubbling just under the surface begins to explode.

For there are serious tensions underlying this film, including the murder of a child, Ray's tormented conscience and Ken's conflicting loyalties. Things come to a boil when Harry ( Ralph Fiennes) finally shows, determined to get everything back to normal, whatever the cost.

In Bruges demands a lot from its audience, but the rewards are great. Seemingly minor plot threads that get dangled early in the film show up unexpectedly much later, characters are consistently displaying unexpected layers, and delightful twists abound.

Admittedly, McDonagh lets his film's violent undertones get the better of him, leading to moments that threaten the good will In Bruges is constantly generating. But invariably, the black humor and inventiveness return. In a cinematic landscape where so many films are content to simply riff on established formulas, it's refreshing to find a formula film that's not above tweaking the very conventions it celebrates.

>>>In Bruges (Focus Features) Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Rated R for intense violence, language and some drug use.

(and some excellent beer drinkin')


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