In Bruges (Alliance, 2008) D: Martin McDonagh, w/ Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Writer-director Martin McDonagh says flat out that he thought up his movie purely because he loves the city of Bruges and wanted to put it on film before someone else did. That’s a good motive. Bruges, in northern Belgium, is a medieval delight, filled with Gothic architecture, the perfect setting for a gangster movie played as wacky tragedy.
Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) look like a comedy duo at first. They’re hit men sent to hide out in Bruges after a bungled killing. Ken, quiet and heavy-set, is happy to be there and soak up the culture. He plays straight man to skinny, miserable Ray, who hates “fucking Bruges” and wants nothing but more beer. In fact, he’s consumed with guilt over his part in the botched hit. Things turn dark, then darker when Ken and Ray’s boss arrives to sort things out.
Ray’s bent for verbal misunderstanding and physical violence leads to encounters with, among others, a nice girl who sells heroin and cocaine and an embittered dwarf. Usually, a dwarf playing an embittered dwarf is a signal of creative bankruptcy, but as disaster mounts, all the elements, dwarf included, that seemed like comic filler come together to produce a tragic finale of Shakespearean proportions. Only wacky.
Gleeson and Farrell play off each other as if they’ve been doing it for years. Their easy familiarity contrasts well with Ralph Fiennes as their rage-fuelled boss and makes it hard to believe that this will turn out any way but well.
McDonagh’s dialogue isn’t as sharp as it should be, and his camera work is pedestrian. Gleeson and Farrell minimize the problems of the former, while lots more of Bruges in the extras gives us a good sense of just how lovely the city is.
EXTRAS Making-of doc, city of Bruges doc, Bruges boat tour footage, deleted scenes, gag reel. Widescreen. English, French audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.