Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Bruges (2008)

In Bruges is an unusual breed of film. Its a profane action-comedy about two hitmen, Ken (Brenden Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell), who arrive in Bruges, Belgium for a vacation as ordered by their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Ken is interested in sightseeing and absorbing the culture, while Ray can't wait to leave, constantly referring to the city as a "shithole" and moping about like a petulant child. Of course, both men are carrying secrets, and over the course of their trip they struggle to come to terms with them.
The film immediately calls to mind Tarantino, but it isn't the kind of hyper-stylized film that he makes. Instead, its writer/director is Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, who is well-known for creating profane, violent plays that are nonetheless introspective. Unlike those of Tarantino, McDonagh's characters here are more than pop-culture-referencing, kill-happy caricatures*, but fully-developed, believable human beings whom we can relate to, though no less profane than the formers' (check out Ken and Harry's conversation in an outdoor bistro for proof). McDonagh received a sort-of surprising Oscar nomination for his screenplay, and he by all means deserved it for his funny, gripping script.
Farrell and Gleeson
Of course, its the actors that really bring it to life. Gleeson gives a marvelous performance as Ken; he's an experienced man who just wants to enjoy the "vacation" while struggling with a very difficult decision, and delivers some of the films best lines (see the aforementioned scene). Fiennes, too, is great, oozing with his trademark maliciousness that's had him cast in so many villain roles over the years. As for Farrell, if you ever needed proof that he is indeed an excellent actor, this film will serve as a reminder. He steals the film with his brilliant performance, deftly balancing the comedy and Ray's internal turmoil; in fact, the film's most touching moments involve Ray, and Farrell plays them to a hilt. He even gets to take a nod to his former bad-boy years, and proves those are far behind him, and hopefully his career will reap the rewards of sobering up and proving himself to be a great performer. Also great: Peter Dinklage's bit part as an American actor filming in Bruges.
A word of advice if you choose to watch this very enjoyable film: its not a laugh-a-minute romp, and not every joke is worthy of belly laughs. But should you give it a try, you'll find a funny, unexpectedly moving film about two hitmen just trying to move on.
*Just a note: I am an unabashed Tarantino fan, and I'm not saying that his films are rubbish. But admittedly his characters aren't out to represent real people, but fantasized versions of the kind of badasses we sometimes wish we could be. I wholeheartedly recommend his entire filmography.

1 comment:

Simon said...

Colin Ferrell didn't surprise me much here, since I wasn't all that aware of him when I saw it, so I thought he was pretty great. Then, in juxtaposition with his other stuff, he was kind of fantastic.