Don’t be too fooled by the ice-cream. In Bruges is a quirky black comedy with an emphasis on the black. In fact, it is a film that possesses the darkest of undertones.
At the core of the movie is the accidental death of an innocent child at the hand of a hit-man, which poses the question: Should this hit-man himself be executed for the tragedy – even if he’s the star and played by everybody’s favorite foul-mouthed Irishman Colin Farrell.
Following a brilliant, clever finale that leaves you wondering what happened or wondering what should’ve happened, writer-director Martin McDonagh leaves it up to the viewer to make up their own mind.
Farrell’s Ray is tormented by what he’s done – botching a straight forward hit (on a priest inside a church), that leads to him and his older partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson) holing up ‘in Bruges’.
Upon arriving Ray thinks he’s already gone to hell, saying, “Maybe that’s what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in fucking Bruges!”
Bruges, it turns out, is a mesmerizing city in Belgium, with a strong medieval history. McDonagh makes great use of the setting with the hit men’s visit turning into a kind of warped fairytale – at Christmas time.
As father figure Ken attempts to turn their lying low into a sight-seeing vacation, Ray just wants to find the local pub and get pissed. And who can really blame him, with the young boy’s shooting going over and over in his head.
Ray doesn’t adapt well to his new surroundings, and gets involved in a number of comical encounters with the locals, including love interest Chloe (Clemence Poesy), fellow ‘tourists’, not to mention an American dwarf named Jimmy (Jordan Prentice) who is filming a movie in the city, and will play a major role in the final act.
Much of the light-heartedness is taken from the movie in the second half, when it becomes apparent, Ray and Ken’s boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), has clearly determined the younger hitman must be done away with for his ‘crime’.
And if neither Ray (who considers suicide), and Ken (who is ordered by Harry) can’t do the deed, Harry himself must.
In his strong cockney accent, he says, “Ken, if I had killed a little kid, accidentally or otherwise, I wouldn’t have thought twice. I’d killed myself on the fucking spot. On the fucking spot. I would’ve stuck the gun in me mouth. On the fucking spot!
With Ray not quite ready to die – at least at someone else’s hand – a cat and mouse struggle ensues, with Harry arriving in town and proving to be a nasty character, not to mention true to his word.
McDonagh quite rightly was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay, and took out the BAFTA award. Jovial and macabre in equal parts, it is fantastically crafted.
Expect even bigger things from Sting-lookalike McDonagh, who already won an Oscar for his first only film – a live-action short called Six Shooter in 2006.
On the acting side, Farrell is back to his subtle best, as is his hair, after forgettable turns – for him and his hair – in Alexander (2004) and Miami Vice (2006); Gleeson (Braveheart, 28 Days Later) is always good, while Fiennes’s over-the-top Harry steals the show at the end when we finally see him after several entertaining conversations with Ken over the phone.
In Bruges the movie is well worth watching – and it looks as though Bruges the city maybe well worth a visit. Just steer clear of hitmen and midgets … and maybe churches.
Oh, and for the record, I thought he should’ve died. He killed a kid.