Review: In Bruges

Colin Farrell as Ray

Two hitmen, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell), are sent by their boss to Bruges, a sleepy medieval city in Belgium, to cool their heels after a botched job. The men become reluctant tourists, but while Ray, haunted by the bloodshed, hates the city, Ken is happy to sightsee, keeping an eye on his companion. Waiting for a call from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), what starts as a typical sightseeing experience (complete with run-ins with American tourists) becomes increasingy surreal as they encounter a junkie dwarf, a one-eyed thief, Dutch prostitutes, and beautiful drug-dealer Chloë (Clémence Poésy). When the call from Harry comes, Ken and Ray’s vacation turns into a black-comedic fight for their lives, with shocking emotional consequences.

Filmed entirely on location, the city is introduced as another character, which we meet along with the assassins. Variously called ‘a shithole’ and ‘a fairytale’, Bruges provides an incongruously idyllic backdrop to Ken and Ray’s exploits. The two men play off each other perfectly in their reactions to the city, as Ray tries to explain to Ken: ‘If I grew up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me.’ Fiennes’ delayed entrance as cockney mob boss Harry provides the perfect villain, with a demeanor by turns terrifying and absurdly hilarious.

Although billed as a comedy with a simple odd-couple setup, and frequently being bruisingly funny, writer-director Martin McDonagh’s whip-smart dialogue is beset with tragedy and genuine emotion, and the characters abide by their own morality. When Ray speaks of his guilt, saying ‘That won’t ever go away… unless I maybe go away’, Colin Farrell is surprisingly undeniably exquisite. Gangster movies are usually all about ‘the job’, but In Bruges picks up where most finish, focusing on the emotional fallout for men finding a way to do what they do. A bizarrely balanced mix of buddy movie and gangster thriller, In Bruges is near perfect.

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4 stars out of 5