Friday, December 23, 2011

In Bruges

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/10/09 w/ Additional Edits.

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, In Bruges is a black comedy about two hitmen hiding out in the Belgian city of Bruges. Awaiting for their next assignment following one where the younger hitman accidentally killed someone, they encounter the town's various sites while meeting an attractive drug dealer, a racist dwarf, and other crazy locals. The film is a study of morality, redemption, and guilt all told with dark humor and gangster-style violence. Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Clemence Poesy, Jordan Prentice, Thekla Reuten, Jeremie Renier, and Ralph Fiennes. In Bruges is a witty, dark, yet entertaining feature-film debut from the renowned Irish playwright.

After a hit that went bad despite the target being hit, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are ordered by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to hide out in the small, medieval Belgian city of Bruges. For the young Ray, hiding out in Bruges for two weeks to wait for Ray's orders seems like a bad idea. With Ken enamored with the city's medieval sites, castles, and such, Ray is extremely bored as all he wants to do is drink beer at the pub. Yet, Ray is also dealing with a guilty conscience over an accident he caused in his first hit despite killing his target. During a night of sightseeing, Ken and Ray stumble onto a film set starring a dwarf named Jimmy (Jordan Prentice) that Ray seems amused by while catching the eye of a very pretty production assistant named Chloe (Clemence Poesy).

After meeting Chloe and going on a date with her the next night, Ray feels good though he reluctantly takes part in another round of sightseeing. Ken meanwhile, gets a message from Harry about a phone call that Ken should receive. Ray and Chloe go on a date later that night where Chloe reveals herself to be a drug dealer as Ray later gets into a scuffle with a Canadian couple. Ken stays at his hotel room at night where he gets a call from Harry about some instructions that proves to be disturbing. Ray later gets into another scuffle with an ex-boyfriend of Chloe named Eirik (Jeremie Renier) who was trying to rob Ray only to get shot in the eye with a blank bullet. Ray and Ken later meet at a pub where Ray had scored some drugs where they meet with Jimmy and a couple of hookers. A night of partying where Jimmy is revealed to be a racist turned out to be troubling.

The next morning, Ken leaves his room to meet with a gun smuggler (Eric Godon) to go on his assignment but after getting a message from Ray from the hotel's pregnant manager Marie (Thekla Reuten). Ken tries to find Ray who was about to do something as Ken realizes that Ray is in trouble. With Ray sent away to whereabouts unknown, Ken calls Harry about what happened leaving Harry enraged and going to Bruges. Ray however, due to his scuffle with the Canadian couple, is sent back to Bruges. When Harry arrives Bruges to confront Ken, the two talk about principles leaving Ken in a moral dilemma about what Ray had done. When Eirik spots Ray with Chloe, all hell breaks loose forcing Ray to fend for himself with Ken making a decision about what to do for himself and Ray.

The film is about a young man dealing with the guilt over an accidental killing as he and his partner are forced to hide out in a place that no person would want to hide out. That place turns to be in Bruges. For the character of Ray, Bruges is a place that seems like the last place on Earth to hide out in with nothing to do but go sightseeing and heckle fat American tourists. Ken meanwhile, Bruges seems like a place to escape and just soak up the beauty of the place as he's been a hitman for so long that he needs something different. Yet, the two men deal with their roles as hitmen and the morality they often face with that role over killing people. When they're forced to face their boss, a man with more extreme principles, both Ken and Ray each have to deal with the consequences knowing what they might have to face.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh creates a film that is mostly dramatic but also filled with lots of humor due to its dialogue and a few characters that are very off the wall. While some audiences might be confused in what the film is trying to be, a black comedy or an existential crime drama. McDonagh does create a film that is filled with lots of rhythm, lots of humor, real drama, and moral themes in his script that is supported by lots of catchy dialogue. Particularly from the character of Jimmy, a racist midget who claims the war to end all wars will be a race war while revealing which side midgets are on. McDonagh's direction is definitely stylish with uses of hand-held cameras to follow the characters around along with tracking shots for other scenes. Yet, the location of Bruges makes it an inspiring place with McDonagh's direction creating a tourist-like feel of the place while getting the audience to be entranced by the beauty that is Bruges. The result is a well-made, stylish feature-film debut from Martin McDonagh.

Cinematographer Eigil Bryld does excellent work with the film's cinematography capturing the beauty nighttime look of Bruges with its yellowish light colors matching against the castles and buildings. The interior looks also are well-lit to convey the intimacy of the places like the bars and restaurants as Bryld does some fine work. Editor Jon Gregory does fantastic work to create a sense of rhythm to match up with the film's dialogue and smooth transitions while an entire phone conversation between Ken and Harry is done in one take with Gregory and McDonagh not cutting all of the drama that goes on. Production designer Michael Carlin along with set decorator Anna Lynch-Robinson and art director Chris Lowe do excellent work in the look of the film's interior setting like the gun smuggler's home, Jimmy's hotel room, and the outside restaurants of Bruge.

Costume designer Jany Temime does wonderful work with the suits that Ken and Harry wear along with the clothes that Ray wears to give them a hitman like look with the elder actors in more professional clothing and Ray more contemporary clothes. Sound editor Julian Slater does an excellent job with the sound in capturing the location of Bruges in all of its tourist-like feel and sense of action that goes on the film's third act. The film's plaintive, melancholic piano-driven music is by Carter Burwell, a known collaborator for the Coen Brothers, as he creates music to play up to the mood of Ken and Ray along with some intense pieces for the climatic standoff between Ray and Harry. The film's soundtrack includes tracks from Townes Van Zandt, the Walkmen, the Dubliners, the Pretenders, and Regina Spektor that's played throughout the film.

The casting by Jina Jay is truly superb with special appearances from Ciaran Hinds as the target that Ray and Ken were supposed to kill and Zjelko Ivanek as the Canadian guy who Ray beats up. Other memorable small roles like Mark Donovan as the overweight American tourist, Rudy Blomme as the ticket seller, and Eric Godon as the arms smuggler are very good. Thekla Reuten is excellent in her role as Marie, the pregnant hotel manager that Ray and Ken stays in while Jeremie Renier is very good as Eirik, Chloe's ex-boyfriend who tries to rob Ray only to get shot in the eye with a blank bullet. Jordan Prentice is wonderfully hilarious as Jimmy, a dwarf who is working on a movie as he tells very racist ideals about a race war and where the dwarfs would side on. Clemence Poesy, who is known by Harry Potter fans as Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is excellent as Chloe. Poesy's charming, calm performance is enjoyable to watch as she is a young woman who likes to do bad things while being very attractive to a guy like Ray.

Ralph Fiennes is great as Harry Waters, the boss who ends up going to Bruges in the film's second half as Fiennes' appearance is filled with great one-liners and a Cockney accent. Fiennes clearly looks like he's having fun with the performance while getting the chance to be a real badass. The film's two best performances go to the duo of Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. Gleeson, who is often known for supporting roles, is brilliant as the more experienced, older Ken as he comes to grips with his own sins while finding comfort in the world that is Bruges. It's a rare leading performance for Gleeson who finally gets the chance to carry a film while sharing the screen with Colin Farrell. Farrell delivers in what has to be his best performance to date after some misguided roles in several Hollywood features. In this film, Farrell gets to display his real acting talents both in comedy and drama as he exudes charm, sarcasm, guilt, and naivete as it proves that Colin Farrell is easily one of the best young actors out there working who deserves better work.

In Bruges is a witty, violent, and enjoyable feature-film debut film from Martin McDonagh. Fans of black comedies and drama will enjoy the film for its sense of style and themes while fans of Colin Farrell will get a chance to see the actor in one of his best performances. Along with a top-notch performance from Brendan Gleeson, it's a film that has lots of stylish dialogue and a sense of humor. While audiences might be put off by some of its violence and 126 F-bombs, it's definitely a film that is geared more for entertainment and character study. In the end, In Bruges is a witty film from Martin McDonagh that delivers in all of its humor, drama, and action.

Martin McDonagh Films: (Six Shooter) - Seven Psychopaths - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

© thevoid99 2011


Chip Lary said...

I like this movie a lot. Farrell, Gleeson, and Fiennes are great.

I had it at number 4 of my recently posted five best non-traditional Christmas movies.

thevoid99 said...

It's definitely a film that gets better with repeated viewings and I found myself enjoying it even more. It's just so damn funny.