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In Bruges

August 8, 2013

In Bruges (2008)
Director: Martin McDonagh
Actors: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

In Bruges

Synopsis: Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are two Irish assassins lying low in Bruges after a hit by Ray went tragically wrong. While awaiting further instructions from their volatile boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), Ray and Ken bicker over Ray’s boredom with Bruges’ quiet historical serenity and Ken’s interest in the city’s sightseeing offerings. Harry’s eventual instructions to Ken, and subsequent visit himself to Bruges, throws all the assorted characters together for a climactic, violent conclusion.

Review: This is a likeable, ramshackle of a movie that gives the impression (in a good way) that it was made up on the fly. It’s almost the ultimate writer/genre exercise, whereby Martin McDonagh seemingly plucked a location and plotline out of the hat, and concocted a narrative from those arbitrary, unlikely beginnings. Thus it’s really a writer’s film, with the dialogue especially to the fore, and McDonagh succeeds in finding a quasi-poetry in the profane. Ralph Fiennes in particular absolutely revels – being the classy technical actor that he is – in his London/Essex gangster role, dropping his aitches, and giving his character that classic Estuary nasality. In a way, it taps into Ben Kingsley’s immortal role in Sexy Beast, but it’s more than just a replication of that turn, but a strangely compelling, and dare I say it – warm performance too. Colin Farrell does great work as well. Although perhaps once or twice he’s almost trying too hard to be funny – as if he’s not trusting in the lines or that he’s such an innately interesting, charismatic performer anyway – but he, along with Brendan Gleeson, grounds the story fantastically.

McDonagh’s other success is in straddling that line between making the movie dramatic and pathos-laden where necessary, while also drawing attention to his postmodern/ironic machinations. In particular, there’s a great moment where Fiennes and Farrell bicker in the climactic scene in the hotel over the shootout logistics and ‘etiquette’ – it shouldn’t really work, but it’s ever so funny. On third viewing, I find some of the fat person/midget jokes a little bit obvious and drawn-out, but they’re the very minor ‘miss’ portion of the film’s hugely high ‘hit’ ratio of gags – too innumerable to list in their entirety, but perhaps a rap-sheet of my favourites include the ‘alcove’ running joke and the pedantic tower guard who gets more than he bargained for when he tries to bully Harry. (August 2013)

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