Shoot First, Sightsee Later.

IN BRUGES (2008)
Thank you Dublin.
If you, like I, long to go out to see some brilliant movies that are coming out such as Black Swan or something fun and stupid like Due Date, but are stuck in the bone-softening, temperature-sensitive, curl-up-under-the-blankets-and-hibernate winter mode, here's one to put on your list to watch from the warm comfort of your yule log. Martin McDonagh, the acclaimed Irish playwright of the black comedy The Pillowman (shout out to my theatre connoisseur girlfriend for that one), proves once again that Europe just knows how to do gangster flicks better with his sharp-whited crime film, In Bruges. Don't get me wrong, fellow Americans--we've got the explosives. We've got the quick, extensive, choreographed fight scenes. We've got the mafia. But what we don't have is that gritty, harsh, sarcastic sense of humor in the macabre that Europeans seem to nail on the head every time. The close attention to character, dramatic relationships, and--thank god--crisp dialogue is something that is extraordinarily rare in American action films, and yet In Bruges captures it all and gives us a damn entertaining film worth its weight in expletives.
Image from www.poptheology.com
Welcome to the sleepy, Hallmark town of Bruges, Belgium. The resting place of waffles, medieval architecture, and two hitmen laying low after a job to off a priest turns sour when a little boy gets caught in the crossfire. Ken (played by the always-brilliant Brendan Gleeson) babysits his partner, the guilt-ridden Ray (Colin Farrell), as the two simply do their best to keep their sanity as they wait for their boss to give them the green light to come home. The simple enough premise gets thorny when Ken is assigned to a task that goes against the grain of his moral obligations and Ray, meanwhile, vies for the attention of a drop-dead gorgeous drug pusher (Clemence Poesy) with lethal complications.

It's really hard to give an accurate description of this movie without sounding like I'm pandering to the pseudo-intellectuals in us. But the truth is--yes, if you enjoy symbolism, redemption and damnation, and lovely little cinematic molehills planted in the beginning of the film which spin into mountain-sized explosive payoffs--this is the movie for you. However, if you just want to sit back, kick up your feet, and liquidate your brain--this is also the movie for you. The entertainment value is not to be undermined, and while the literary lovefest of deeper meanings and subtle complexities is there--there is excessive cursing, there are drugs, there are midgets (or dwarfs) who hang off the arms of Amsterdam whores. In short, it is impossible not to love this movie.

Image from the Guardian.
I may not be the biggest Colin Farrell fan (hey, anyone remember that movie Alexander? No? My point exactly), but he tore the house down in this film. It's hard not to love Ray, with his childlike impatience and punch-first-apologize-later attitude, who simultaneously carries a heavy burden of guilt on his shoulders. He's silly, absurd, and heartbreaking all at once, and between McDonagh's purely brilliant dialogue and Farrell's ease with which he slips into Ray's skin, the performance is amazing (the judges thought so too--Farrell won a Golden Globe for best actor in a musical/comedy). As for his buddy Ken, Bredan Gleeson, no surprise here, pulls off another fantastic performance as the "stick in the mud" yet sensible one of the two. And then there's their boss, Harry: father, husband, and top-dog gangster. Is there anything Ralph Fiennes can't do? His comic timing is hilarious, and he plays the perfect "cunt". Lastly, a shout out to Clemence Poesy, who some may know as Fleur from Harry Potter, but who I know as the charming, man-eating pusher with a sadistic edge, and Jordan Prentice, who deserves many more roles than simply "the token midget" and proves you don't have to be "this tall" to be a great actor.

And so don't get up out of bed this winter season. You may have to be a retarded farmer to enjoy Bruges, but anyone who's anyone will be thoroughly entertained by In Bruges. I bet my santa hat on it.


  1. In Bruges was a great film. Colin Farrell was excellent and Ralph Fiennes almost stole the film.

  2. I agree with you there! Colin Farrell was surprisingly excellent, and I'm speaking as someone who doesn't normally have that much faith in him. And I can't help but love Ralph Fiennes, as usually he was epic.


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