Two hitmen hide out in Bruges as they await further information from their boss and slowly go mad with nothing to do. It sounds like a simple and tired premise. However, Martin McDonagh’s movie does not traffic in simple and tired.
The movie stars Colin Farrell as Ray, a gangster who made a terrible mistake during a hit and is traumatized by it. Brendan Gleeson plays Ken, his partner, who is sent to look after Ken. They hate Bruges. They say there’s nothing to do. Harry Waters, their boss, thinks it’s a lovely place. There’s swans. There’s architecture. There’s also a movie being filmed. Ray falls for a girl working on the movie, and runs afoul of an actor played by Peter Dinklage. It feels insincere to say ‘and laughter ensues,’ but it really does.
The city of Bruges is almost a character itself. The old buildings with the interesting architecture. The shadows and alleyways invoke thoughts of ‘The Third Man’s’ Vienna.
The entire cast, from Farrell on down are wonderful. I’ve always thought little of Colin Farrell, but the more you look at his filmography, the clearer it becomes that Farrell is quietly building an excellent career. Brendan Gleeson is always good and here is no different. Peter Dinklage handles a role that could have easily become an annoying and repetitive joke into something much more interesting. And Ralph Finnes is wonderful as Harry Waters. I always associate Finnes with straight-laced, serious roles and the character of Walters is the complete opposite of that assumption.
McDonagh’s script delicately balances between comic serious and it never gets caught on the wrong side of the line. McDonagh won an Oscar for the short film, ‘Six Shooter,’ and he continues his winning ways with this, his first full-length feature.
The film also contains numerous visual references to Nicolas Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now,’ with dark alleys and shadowy figures. The movie is also rife with an incredibly amusing and entertaining use of a certain profanity. In fact, according to the IMDB, it’s used a little over once a second in the film. If you’re easily offended by such things, take heed.
The film strikes the delicate balance between funny and serious. While things are played for comic effect, the violence is real. People get shot. People bleed. People die. It’s impressive how well McDonagh handles this challenge. What’s most impressive is the fact that you never see anyone in the movie working hard. It makes things look so easy. And sometimes, making it look easy is the hardest thing to do. –Sam