BOTTOM LINE: Purporting to be a dark comedic thriller, “In Bruges” never quite balances these elements effectively for a worthwhile viewing experience, although the strong performances from the lead actors just about make up for it.
THE GOOD: “In Bruges” is the story of two Irish hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) who are told to lay low in Bruges in Belgium for two weeks by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Ken is happy to be a tourist, especially with his interest in history and culture, but Ray is annoyed, wanting to get out of there as soon as possible. These early scenes between Ray and Ken are the funniest in the film as the two sarcastically debate the merits of Bruges. Colin Farrell is excellent as Ray, delivering a fidgety, sarcastic and naughty boy performance with Ray. Brendan Gleeson is great playing the straight guy in Ken but delivers his character with a razor-sharp wit. The two men are waiting for the phone call from Harry which does not come. In the mean time, Ken goes sight-seeing while Ray stumbles across a movie set where he hooks up with a blonde actress and commences one of many comedic encounters with an American Dwarf. With Ray occupied and now having fun, Ken receives the call from Harry who tells Ken to kill Ray for a botched hit on a priest where he also killed a little boy. Ralph Fiennes is perhaps the best part of this film; his dialogue and delivery are fantastic and will have you laughing whenever he’s on.
The film proceeds on an interesting series of twists and turns as the three men try to resolve their issues with each other but ultimately end up in a tragic place. The strongest aspect of “In Bruges” is the casting; watching these three actors on screen is worth the price of admission as they each take turns in commanding the screen. The twisting story-line is also worthy of note as you are never really sure how it will end, who will live and who will die, with the story becoming more engaging as time passes. There is also some nice use of locations and photography; this film does not appear to have had a huge budget but it certainly looks more expensive than what it probably was thanks to some great crowd scenes and location coverage.
THE BAD: The main problem with “In Bruges” is that it never really satisfies either the dark comedy or thriller aspects effectively. The film starts off in a funny place as Ray and Ken squabble over being in Bruges, but then it changes dramatically when Ken is ordered by Harry to kill Ray. Suddenly there are serious issues in play, another of which is Ray’s feelings of guilt over killing the little boy by accident when he was doing the hit on the priest (a motivation which doesn’t mesh very well with his more selfish wit). Ray spends a few scenes feeling very upset and guilty over this tragic occurrence, to the point of almost committing suicide, but then magically goes back to being sarcastic and funny whenever this topic is not covered.
Things pick up a little bit when Ralph Fiennes appears after the half-way point, but the problem still exists, particularly towards the end when Harry commits suicide after shooting the dwarf by accident while he’s shooting Ray in a scene which mimicked Ray’s botched hit. With Ken also having been killed a little earlier in a tragic but noble act of self-sacrifice, the film ends in a dark place but Ray ends up doing a voice-over in which he effectively talks about how Bruges is hell and covers some of the same comedic ground that started the film; the effect of this is to negate the dramatic climax by trivialising the whole event. As a result of all of these inconsistencies in execution, you’re never quite sure whether to feel moved dramatically, or amused.
For the original review, follow this link: http://www.allaboutmovies.net/filmreviewinbruges.htm
Todd Murphy is a staff reviewer at the film/DVD review web site, All About Movies.net – for all the latest reviews on the newest releases. He also contributes reviews and articles for the Digicosm Film Blog: http://www.filmannex.com/Digicosm