Wednesday, February 25, 2009
In Bruges is a solid premise backed by a script which shines in places and three impeccable performances.
Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are hitmen trying to lay low after a botched hit. Their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes, unseen until the films's second half) sends them to the Belgian town of Bruges. Ken tries to keep the anxious Ray in line, but even in the sleepy medieval town Ray's inclinations toward excitement find an outlet. A movie is filming in the quiet streets and Ray befriends a dwarf actor and his female drug-dealer, which leads to him punching a Canadian and his wife (to be fair, he thought they were Americans) and to blinding the drug-dealer's petty thief ex-boyfriend with a blank from the thief's own gun.
The dialogue between Ken and Ray is strong as Ken tries to get Ray to take an interest in the sights, all in the name of helping Ray to get over the deadly mistake he made in their last hit (Ray's first). Even though what the two do for a living is reprehensible, their friendship comes fairly close to touching.
This is all to set up the film's second half, which moves swiftly and violently, never stopping until the film's ambiguous conclusion (which I won't spoil here, don't worry). Harry finally calls, but it's not the desired permission to return to London, instead Ken is ordered to kill Ray. From that moment on, the film is very tense and leaves you guessing what will happen next, up to and including the final shot.
The strongest feature of the script is the meticulous plotting. Everything that happens in the movie happens for a reason. There is no extraneous filler, and even the comic relief (such as a scene where Farrell and Gleason warn overweight Americans not to climb a bell tower) has significance. The first half does move rather slow, but it has its moments, and the contrast between it and the second half is crucial.
In Bruges is almost one of those regrettable films which tries to turn professional murderers into mere quirky gentlemen with colorful vocabularies and indiscernible (but apparently very strong) codes of conduct and honor. However, the script deftly avoids such well-worn territory (even parodying it in parts) and ably moves the movie into a higher plane, where senseless violence and the over-reliance on automatic weapons to solve problems have real and deadly consequences. To be sure, the dialogue is very funny in parts, and the characters are a tad eccentric, but McDonough never ignores what they do for a living, and very rarely tries to justify their existences. Overall, a very enjoyable flick, which gets it 7.8 out of 10.