Movie Review: In Bruges
Another head-cold, another whiskey-fueled couch-potato video marathon. But unlike my last bout of illness, I actually managed to watch something worthwhile this time. Directed and written by Martin McDonagh, In Bruges is an English black comedy in the style of Shallow Grave. It’s a tasty mix of violence, laughs and Colin Farrell’s eyebrows, which seem to be constantly trying to escape from his face.
The story revolves around two inept London hit-men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who are sent to lie low in the mediaeval Belgian city of Bruges by their foul-mouthed but nattily dressed gangster boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes).
To kill time, Ken takes an unwilling Ray on a tour of the architectural highlights of the city, but they get sidetracked by a ketamine-addled dwarf acting in a film being shot in one of Bruges’ backstreets. Here, Ray chats up Chloë (Clémence Poésy), the official drug dealer for the film crew and, natch, the romantic interest.
This is when the movie really hits its straps and Ray’s eyebrows go into overdrive. His date with Chloë goes badly wrong and after punching out a Canadian husband-and-wife he ends up in a snogging session with Chloë that gets rudely interrupted by Chloë’s boyfriend. He ends up sending the boyfriend to hospital and stealing Chloë’s drug stash.
A coke-fueled party then ensues with Ken, the dwarf and some hookers. The dwarf regales them with his views on the coming race-war between black dwarves and white dwarves before Ray delivers a karate chop to shut the dwarf up. For anyone that’s ever been to Amsterdam, Cologne or Prague for a, er, recreational weekend, these scenes will resonate strongly.
It seems to me that the actors’ equity dwarf lobby must really be getting some traction in England these days. First, it was Death at a Funeral, then In Bruges. Actually, the dwarf (Jordan Prentice) comes across as the least talented actor in this film, but that’s only because he’s outgunned by the extraordinary talents of the rest of the cast. He actually puts in a pretty good performance. Speaking of acting, Farrell turns in a blinder as the ‘oirish hitman Ray. Manic, fragile, unbalanced and utterly splendid – and that’s just his eyebrows.
In a cruel plot twist, we eventually learn why Ray and Ken have been sent to Bruges and it’s not long before their boss, Harry, turns up “to sawt fings owt” and things really get out of control. The city itself serves as a fine backdrop for the characters’ musings on sin, redemption and salvation.
There’s some fantastic minor roles – particularly the gun dealer – in this film and the scripting is as tight as a drum. More importantly, the writing is absolutely delightful throughout the movie. McDonagh is known for his playwriting but with this film under his belt, we will hopefully see much more of his work on the big screen (or small screen, in my case). It’s the best movie so far this year.