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United Kingdom 2008
Directed by
Martin McDonagh
107 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3.5 stars

In Bruges

Synopsis: Two contract killers (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) hide out in the olde worlde Belgian city of Bruges until the heat cools down after their bungled last hit.

“Maybe that's what 'ell is, an entire eternity spent in fuckin’ Bruges.”

Writer/director Martin McDonagh is foremost a well-known Irish playwright, whose work has received some criticism for being ‘too Irish’. The same comment might follow him into film where his intensely Irish characters won him an Oscar for the short film Six Shooter, and opening night at the 2008 Sundance Festival for In Bruges. Yet if this film is anything to go by, ‘too Irish’ is just fine with me.

Ray and Ken are two hitmen hiding out in Bruges. Bunkered down in the quaintly beautiful city, the younger Ray becomes increasingly stir-crazy while middle-aged Ken calmly takes in as many tourist moments as possible. Ray meets Chloe (Clémence Poésy) and dwarf, Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), who are both working on a film in the streets of Bruges. Gradually it is revealed why the two men's increasingly angry boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), has sent them there.

The screenplay features some enigmatic references to Nicolas’s Roeg’s 1973 classic psychological thriller, Don’t Look Now (Bruges is known as “The Venice of the North”), but is more overtly evocative of Harold Pinter’s stage play The Dumb Waiter as the potential identity of the next ‘hit’ becomes menacingly clear. Despite the expletive-laden dialogue being typical of the  modern crime genre, it is underscored with a relatively subtle morality tale. To a degree, this is highlighted by Ken’s attempts to introduce Ray to the medieval history of Bruges – the Basilica of the Holy Blood with its vial of Christ’s blood and ‘The Last Judgement’ by Hieronymus Bosch - artefacts which reinforce Ray's awareness of being in a self-created purgatory and his need to expiate his sins.

Farrell and Gleeson are very entertaining Irish fish-out-of-water in the Flemish capital. Much of the film relies on their banter and bicker, but as tension levels rise and the angry Harry pays a visit, the film’s dramatic tension goes through the roof. Fiennes shows that he can be equally as terrifying in human form as his monstrous rendition of Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. In Bruges is a violent yet unusually well-educated film, a Pinter/Tarantino mélange that manages to work wonderfully, comically, and dramatically.




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