In Bruges

18 Jan

In Bruges

I hate marketing.

I hate this:

DVD cover

I hate the description on the back of In Bruges’ DVD jacket:

“Colin Farrell and Academy Award®-nominee Ralph Fiennes star in this edgy, action-packed comedy, filled with  thrilling chases, spectacular shoot outs and an explosive ending you won’t want to miss!

“Hit men Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson, Harry Potter) have been ordered to cool their heels in the storybook city of Bruges (it’s in Belgium) after finishing a big job. But since hit men make the worst tourists, they soon find themselves in a life-and-death struggle of comic proportions against one very angry crime boss (Fiennes)!”

No. No, no, no, no, and, again, no.

Anybody going into this movie expecting some sort of silly, “action-packed” buddy comedy will be disappointed. In reality, In Bruges is almost anything but. It’s a much calmer (save for the occasional round of fisticuffs and gunfire), sadder movie, with a bitter sense of humor (along with a bitter distaste for American tourists). You surely won’t want to miss the excellent ending to this film, but “explosive” is not the word I would use.  And, for Christ’s sake, Ralph Fiennes doesn’t even show up until the last half hour of the damn movie!

The plot, without hyperbole: after a hit gone tragically awry, Ray and Ken (a very prominent role, played by Brendan Gleeson, who also played “Mad-Eye” Moody in the Harry Potter series, which is obviously his only claim to any sort of repute) are ordered to hide in Bruges for a couple of weeks by their short-tempered boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes, most notable for his role as Lord Voldemort). Orders are to lay low and go quietly sightseeing, but Ray would much prefer to get drunk and complain about what a shithole Bruges is.  One night, while sightseeing, Ray gets bored fast and is drawn to a nearby movie set (“They’re filming midgets!”) where he meets a girl in the European film business named Chloë (Clémence Poésy), a drug dealer who quickly becomes Ray’s romantic interest. After a day or two of spending time with all of the interesting characters in Bruges, Ken gets into trouble when he refuses to carry out his next hit (no spoilers, but there’s a really good reason why). Harry arrives in Bruges, and that’s when things start getting “action-packed” and “thrilling” or whatever.

The reason that all the gimmicky marketing makes me so mad is because In Bruges is a great film in its own right. This is the first feature written and directed by Martin McDonagh. His screenplay was nominated for an Oscar, and it’s easy to see why. Firstly, and most obviously, it’s hilarious. From Ray’s boldly offensive quips (telling a group of obese tourists that they shouldn’t climb the bell tower because they’re “a bunch of fucking elephants”) to the subtle touches of irony (a remark involving those same tourists later in the film) and even despite the couple of inexplicable slips into absurdity (which, come to think of it, were also pretty great), there are plenty of laughs to be found in the movie. What makes the screenplay really great, though, is the balance it perfectly strikes between the laughs and the tragedy and moral conflicts in the story. Not to revert to that old cliché about laughing and crying, but that’s what this movie did: it made me laugh while making me sad, and it also ended with a amazing monologue that will probably stick with me for days to come. All marks of greatness.

The acting in the movie is also great. In particular: Colin Farrell, who gives an excellent performance as Ray, an anxious, remarkably unreserved man who is trying to forget his life-altering mistake (there’s a sign hanging in my window that reads “No Spoilers”). Farrell pulls it off, playing a shockingly rude character while still being able to gain sympathy. There’s also Brendan Gleeson, who, believe it or not, is a very good actor. Much like Ray, his character finds himself in a moral dilemma, and Gleeson plays confliction convincingly. Then, of course, there’s Ralph Fiennes, who does a great job as the hilariously ill-tempered Harry. High fives all around!

In Bruges is a great movie. It’s hilarious and dark, with a great cast and, again, a fantastic ending. I definitely recommend it. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to hide this DVD box from my sight…


Next time, I remember to mention that I’m a full-time student in the midst of the spring semester, lighten up on the parentheses, and write a review of Panda Bear’s Person Pitch.


One Response to “In Bruges”

  1. Nanette January 18, 2010 at 5:10 PM #

    LOVED this movie. I thought it was delightfully ironic and the ending was PERFECT. I’ve found it moves a little slowly. Take this movie on knowing full well that you need to enjoy the beauty. It’s not an action-packed, edge of the seat experience. The feel is very European. You’ll no doubtedly leave the movie with something to discuss.

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