March 6, 2008


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In Bruges (R)
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are hitmen awaiting orders in Belgium in In Bruges, a strange and dark comedy about ending up in a purgatory of your own making.

Well, maybe not a dark dark comedy. Maybe more like a semi-sweet dark comedy, with some of the bitterness balanced out by some of the quirky comedy.

Ray (Farrell), as he was hired to do, killed a priest in England and is now on the run with Ken (Gleeson), hiding out in the medieval town of Bruges until the heat is off. But the heat is unlikely to ever be off in that right behind the intended mark of the assassination, the priest, was a completely innocent victim who also died from Rayís bullets. Itís this part of his crime that Ray canít get over Perhaps because all he has to do in Bruges is stew on this accident or perhaps because Bruges is the kind of place with more historical sites than pubs, Ray is miserable. Ken on the other hand is rather enjoying the old buildings and the art museums. He doesnít mind spending potentially as many as two weeks there while he waits for boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to call and tell them what to do next.

While the trouble from back home festers, each man finds his own way to pass the time ó Ken with the kind of present-minded enjoyment of a quiet moment that comes with a life in violence, and Ray by finding new trouble to get into. Mere days into his visit Ray gets himself a drug-dealer love interest, a sworn enemy in her skinhead ex-boyfriend and a strange acquaintance in an American little person, who has a part in a movie being shot in the town.

Itís hard to tell much more about this movie without going even deeper into spoiler territory. Moments of sharp humor are punctuated by moments of surprising darkness. You can predict many of the charactersí fates but their stories play out with enough originality to keep you watching. The performances of the three main characters have plenty to do with that ó Gleeson, Fiennes and to a lesser degree Farrell all tease complexity out of what could have been cartoon criminal caper roles. Fiennes seems delighted to get to play such a big, loud villain and bites into the part with relish.

Since I canít say much more about the plot, Iíll mention that some of the jokes come at the expense of the nameless American tourist characters we see in a brief scene early on in the movie. These fat, T-shirt-wearing bumpkins are remarkably like the tourists we see only briefly in Two Days in Paris, another group with higher body mass indexes than IQs. As with that movie, the scenes in In Bruges are funny and our portrayal, while not flattering, offers an interesting look at how the rest of the world views us. Wedged in sideways among the crime-and-punishment story are surprisingly little moments like these that give you a chuckle and keep the film moving forward. B-

Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language and some drug use. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, In Bruges is an hour and 47 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by Focus Features.