In Bruges (2008)
Directed by Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jordan Prentice, Clemence Poesy
If you remember movie years like I do, most people might remember 2008 as the year that The Dark Knight came out and not much else. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that, it was a dull year, unexceptional. Except, there was one other saving grace of that abysmal year – a diamond in the rough, the true, overlooked savior of ’08 – Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. Garnering critical acclaim upon it’s release and turning into somewhat of a cult success since, In Bruges is an exceptional dark comedy, one that you can look back and say “Oh yea, In Bruges came out in ’08, that was a great movie”. And so, for that obscure reason, we are putting it into The Movie Bucket today.
Written by McDonagh, the story follows Ken and Ray (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell), two hitmen who take a trip to Bruges to lay low following a hit job gone-wrong. Where’s Bruges? It’s in Belgium. Once there, the two must kill time – whether it be sight-seeing, getting a beer, or doing cocaine with hookers and a racist midget (Jordan Prentice) – keeping a low profile until they get orders from their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Being partners, you would think that Ray and Ken were a bad match from the beginning. Ken enjoys Bruges for it’s beauty and peaceful setting, taking the opportunity to take in a bit of culture and tour the town. Ray, on the other hand, couldn’t be more out of place. Like a moping child, he sulks and drags his feet about town, pining for a beer.
Farrell and Gleeson are fantastic together. Their dynamic is almost that of father-figure to over-grown kid – it’s hilarious at times and endearing at others. Ken is never afraid to put Ray in his place, but he sympathizes with him for his situation that he’s landed himself in. He has the best intentions for Ray, but also has the highest respect for Harry, and finds himself in dilemma with his loyalties as the movie progresses. Gleeson is always great and his stern, but gentle and affectionate turn as Ken is just further evidence of the fact.
Going into this movie, who honestly thought that Colin Farrell could really act? Farrell is SO good, it’s almost shocking he only got a Golden Globe for the role. It’s an incredible performance – Ray is a suffering man who, when he’s not complaining or cracking jokes, is haunted by the tragic results of his first job and it torments Ray. Farrell’s comedic timing along with the emotional level that coincides with it is effortless. Credit to McDonagh’s script, Farrell’s delivery of some of the most bizarre and random dialogue will leave you rolling with laughter. Like so many iconic comedies, In Bruges is choc-full of quotable one-liners… some of which I will quote here and now:
“If I grew up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”
“Somehow I believe, Ken, that the balance shall tip in the favor of culture, like a big fat fucking retarded fucking black girl on a see-saw opposite… a dwarf.”
“They’re filming midgets!”
“Harry, let’s face it. And I’m not being funny. I mean no disrespect, but you’re a cunt. You’re a cunt now, and you’ve always been a cunt. And the only thing that’s going to change is that you’re going to be an even bigger cunt. Maybe have some more cunt kids.”
That last one is referring to the film’s main antagonist, the temperamental and foul-mouthed Harry, played by the ever-brilliant Ralph Fiennes. Just as Ray and Ken have theirs, Harry has a handful of really funny scenes, and he doesn’t even show up until the end of the film. Fiennes is as funny as he is brutal, he’s a man of strict principles, and he’ll stick by them no matter what. He does well for the villain as he always has, but like Farrell, Fiennes is so fucking funny. After a ludicrous phone call between himself and Ken, he shows up in Bruges where they have an even more ludicrous conversation in the town square. It’s great stuff, and you could watch all three play off of each other for hours.
I keep talking about how funny this movie is, but I should acknowledge just how dark it gets too. The details of Ray’s mishap should be held for emphasis if you’ve yet to see the film, but it is tragic and it takes a huge emotional toll on Ray that dwells with him day and night. He struggles with his regret and guilt, constantly reminded of it to where you feel his burden, even when on an eventful date with a local beauty (Clemence Poesy). There’s a very fine balance between the humor and the drama in this movie – one tends to make up for the other – and throw in a tense chase at the end giving it a well-rounded, though open-ended finish. Bruges is purgatory for each of these men, three men who have each a dark and violent history behind them, and they’ve come to this inconsequential town in Belgium for judgement.
In Bruges is perhaps one of my all-time favorites – it’s a film that will have you in stitches from beginning to end. Rich with sharp and witty dialogue and unforgettable one-liners, it also carries an emotional and human weight along with it and there’s a dreary tone that lingers throughout. The comedy as well as the drama is incredibly effective, playing harmoniously and with subtlety thanks to the tremendous performances of it’s three leads, a great script and masterful direction. This is a great movie, one that could’ve easily been overlooked, and if that is the case, please give it a go for you will not be disappointed.