In Bruges

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in bruges

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell hiding out in Bruges, Belgium.

I heard two critics leaving the screening and say this was a great Coen brothers type film. Well, they did have the score done by Coen’s composer Carter Burwell. I’m guessing the Coen’s would’ve given us a much sharper script, and a movie without so many close-ups that did nothing but showed actors thinking, as if that’s profound filmmaking instead of amateurish.

I don’t fault well-known playwrite Martin McDonagh (Six Shooter, the short that won him an Oscar), who’s directing his first film.

Colin Farrell plays the exact same character he played in last year’s Cassandra’s Dream. He’s not the smartest guy, but he’s a hitman with a heart of gold. Ya know, Hollywood gave us so many hookers with a heart of gold, I suppose it’s time for a run on hitmen; especially with everybody trying to do their Quentin Tarantino movie. The problem is, the Farrell character worked so much better in the Woody Allen movie because he was forced into being a hitman by a rich uncle who was going to help him out of a financial bind. In this, Farrell accidentally shot a kid during a botched job, and has to hide out in the city of Bruges. His partner (Brendan Gleeson) joins him. They have nice chemistry together, and it’s fun watching the pain in Gleeson’s voice, as he tries to make the best of the situation while they wait for their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to give the next set of instructions.

The beautiful city in Belgium is shot nicely by Eigil Bryld. Looking at the ancient churches and cobbled-stone streets on screen is like we’re there. And as Gleeson’s character tries to show the sites to Farrell, he merely complains “If I had grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

Sure, that’s a funny line, but there’s a problem with all that humor. It doesn’t humanize the characters the way they had in mind. How should I care about a guy that says things like that? In fact, why are we even caring about any jam they got themselves in? They kill people for money. I’m guessing that’s the risk you take with a job like that. You might kill an innocent person (by accident or on purpose). Your boss might kill you. The possibilities are endless.

The first part of the movie might seem slow to some, but I thought it was a nice leisurely pace that got us familiar with this odd couple, that had great chemistry. We get to see the sights as they do, and wonder what is in store for their next assignment.

At the mid-point of the movie, they stumble across the filming of a movie. This fascinates Farrell’s character, as it would a teenager that loves the bright lights, boom mics, and cameras. This leads to a dwarf actor (Jordan Prentice) meeting up with them in a bar, and then back at the hotel. In his drunken stupor, he gives a racist rant that might be the most bizarre and funny thing you see in a movie all year.

Another scene that is hysterical, involves Farrell messing up a thug that doesn’t realize who he’s dealing with. I won’t give it away, but this guy ends up having some bad luck in this movie, and you’ll love every minute of that.

Every scene Fiennes was in bothered me. It’s because his over the top mob boss character just seemed cartoonish and unbelievable. It’s as if he saw the Oscar nomination Ben Kingsley got in Sexy Beast and said – I can do that! No, you can’t. Not only was Kingsley so much better, Sexy Beast also had a weak script as well. Both these movies seem slipshod in the script.

All that said, I found the movie interesting most of the time. McDonagh writes some wonderful dialogue, and has humanizing touches that are at times poignant. I just thought the 3rd act tried to hard for the quirkiness, and became a series of goofy shoot-outs, and the whole thing just became self-conscious.

There are also a few plot holes. One involves a scene where a guy jumps to his death. He climbs a lot of stairs after being shot, and says more than should even be possible after landing. Yet again, it’s dialogue that tries to be too cool for school.

Another scene involves the police catching someone on a train. I’m not sure how they’d know he was on the train, or how they would have witnesses with them that could identify him.

I don’t buy the ending for a second, or this goofy chivalrous code the hitmen all seem to follow.

You never tire of the protagonists Mutt and Jeff routine, and the writing is clever enough to get you passed any goofy scenes where a hitman is going to count to 10 to give you a running start before shooting at you.

This gets a B-.