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Movie Review: In Bruges

February 14, 2008

I think I kind of made a mistake in promising an in-depth review of the film to you, who checks my blog with the heady anticipation of discovering what I think about…stuff.

While I am loathe to disappoint, I think this may be a relatively short post, since part of the fun of the movie is discovering it for the first time.

As I bragged about in an earlier post, I had the good fortune of reading the script over a year ago and have loved it ever since. The writer was also the director, so the script mostly translates to screen as written. Colin Farrell takes his character in a different direction than as written, so some lines don’t play quite the same as I expected — and it’s about a 50-50 split between more funny and less funny. But most of you didn’t read the script I’m sure, so it’s pretty much all good funny. They also changed the ending from the version I read, though I have to say I think it’s for the better.

As I mentioned above, the film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two hit men sent by their boss (played by Ralph Fiennes) to cool their heels in the titular town of Bruges, Belgium — which, according to the film, is the most well-preserved medieval town in Europe — after a hit gone wrong. It’s an indie film at its heart, so despite the sudden surge of action towards the end it’s mostly a character piece.

Farrell plays his role like a petulant, ADD child, and Gleeson his father figure. Fiennes as their employer is as always a phenomenal villain, with an intense look and sharky smile that makes you feel afraid of him even when he’s smiling. Make that: ESPECIALLY when he’s smiling.

The film isn’t for everyone. It’s slow in some parts and shockingly violent and abrupt at others; I personally liked it, since the pacing is intentionally reflective of the characters’ states of mind, but I can see how people might find it uneven. It’s surprisingly violent and bloody, even knowing that it’s about hitmen.

But all told, what I said before still stands. If you like British gangster films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and if you’re into Tarantino, you’ll like In Bruges a whole lot. McDonaugh doesn’t have quite the skill and flair that Tarantino does for visuals — which is okay in this case, as part of the idea is juxtaposing rather mundane reality with the aforementioned violence and bloodshed — but what he DOES have in common with Mr. Brown is a superb ear for dialogue, and an intriguing perspective on those we would consider the “underworld”.

Like Tarantino, also, you find yourself laughing at wholly inappropriate things and being unsure if you should. This is comedy at its darkest. The kind of movie where you laugh, then think “This movie is sick and I’m sick for laughing at it”, and then you laugh some more. That kind. I think it may actually have backfired, as some people in the audience laughed at parts of the movie that were clearly not intended to be funny at all. For his part, I think the director quite deftly moves between a serious tone and an irreverent tone when the situation calls for it, but I suppose for some people once you open the door to laughing at certain things, for just a little while, you’re gonna laugh at everything.

Going any further in-depth would require me to both delve deeper into the plot, which for your sake as a reader I don’t want to do (it’s a great ride the first time through), and would also require me to see the film again and digest it further.

Bottom line, check it out, preferably in theatres. I do think it’s better than the trailers (which is a shame; I love a good trailer).

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