This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
As films go, this is about as politically correct as Bernard Manning, but thankfully it’s also about eleventy million times funnier. After a bit of wetwork goes tragically wrong, hitmen Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are sent to Bruges to hide out. While Ken is happy soaking in the medieval atmosphere of the well preserved historical spot, Ray is a little less enamoured with the locale, as you make pick up on from his profanity laced tirades against the place.
Exactly what the Belgian town perpetrated on the scriptwriters in some prior life is not exactly clear, but it’s clearly something major. Come to think of it, Farrell delivers the barbed lines with such vehemence that very possibly the place has done something unspeakable to him as well. At any rate, things take a slight turn for the better once Ray stumbles across Chlo? (Cl?mence Po?sy), a pretty young thing flogging narcotics to the staff of a visiting film production. Despite some initial faux pas, such as laying out two fellow diners on their first date, it seems that Ray may not have entirely wasted his time in Belgium.
Throw in a couple of manky hookers and Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), a racist, horse tranquilliser-addled dwarf actor and you’ve all the ingredients for a screwball underworld comedy. The only asparagus in the cake mix comes from the hitmen’s boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), revealing the real reason that the pair have been sent abroad, setting in motion an unfortunate and rather bloody chain of events.
If there’s one issue to take with In Bruges, and given how much I enjoyed this film I feel a little dirty for mentioning it, it’s ol’ Harry there and that there endin’ there. After setting itself up as, more or less, a comic outing of questionable taste and ethics, it starts trying to graft a thriller on to the back of it. Except, it’s still trying to be funny at the same time, as evidenced by Fiennes continual scenery-chewing that plays like a hybrid of the Kray Twins and the Chuckle Brothers. Tension and laughter don’t really mix too well, and while it’s never any less than utterly enjoyable the build towards a dramatic impact is rather undermined, and perhaps it would have been better sticking with the funny-funny.
Because, lawks-a-lordy, if it isn’t funny. Despite his appearing in seemingly every single film made between 2002 and 2004 I wouldn’t necessarily have pegged Farrell as a great comic actor, but he proves he has the chops here. Gleeson is excellent as well, and the banter between the two seems natural, flowing and viciously amusing. If there’s any awards being given for high quality facial expressions then these two have to be in the running. The supporting cast do an equally laudable job, with Prentice giving a surprisingly likeable performance despite his proclivities and drug fuelled rants.
Writing about In Bruges presents an interesting challenge. Well, writing about any film these days apparently presents a challenge, if the slovenly rate of updates ’round these parts lately is anything to go by. However, in this specific case, the challenge is explaining why In Bruges is particularly amusing, given that the subject matter doesn’t seem rife with comic potential which is why I’m being somewhat wooly about things lest I inadvertently dissuade you from seeing it. Make no mistake, this is about as black a comedy as I’ve seen since Peter Mullan’s equally excellent Orphans. Here, as with Orphans some may find this morbid, some may find this offensive, some may find this altogether too silly to be enjoyable, and perhaps they have a point. However, if you’re as sick, twisted and irreverent as the human race generally proves itself to be every day, I think you’ll love In Bruges. I certainly did.