In Bruges

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    How director/screenwriter Martin McDonagh took what could’ve been a generic, silly and crafted one of the most entertaining and original films of the year is something of a miracle. Definitely a big part of the film’s success is the casting of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in the lead roles, their chemistry is a key reason the film works. In Bruges takes its themes of guilt, the past, spirituality, forgiveness, ethics and violence and creates a comedy of the blackest, darkest pitch.

Farrell and Gleeson play Ray and Ken, two Irish hit men who, after a disastrous hit, are forced by their boss Harry, Ralph Fiennes, to hide out in Bruges, Belgium. This is perfect for Ken, who seems to have an endless enthusiasm for the history and culture of Bruges, as well as an unlimited supply of travel books, and disaster for Ray, who would rather be, well, anywhere else. As Ray says, in one of the film’s many, many terrific lines: “If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

Ray’s opinion on Bruges changes ever so slightly when he meets the alluring Chloe (Clemence Poesy), and that’s about as much plot as I can tell you without ruining the shifting, twisting nature of the story. Well, I can maybe mention the testy dwarf Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), in town filming a pretentious art film, or how the film, although definitely bizarre and strange in nature, has a lot to say about the reality of being a hit man, that is, can you live with the weight of murder on your conscience for the rest of your life?

Colin Farrell is a very good actor who unfortunately usually doesn’t play very interesting characters (most of his recent work either was very remarkable or was just Farrell playing a version of himself), but I have to say that his funny, energetic, devastating performance here is his best work since 2000’s Tigerland. Brendand Gleeson as the older, more experienced hit man gives a terrific performance, and I really expect him to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Ralph Fiennes is scary, vicious and funny, and does a great amount with his limited screen time. Probably my favorite scene is the phone call between Ken and Harry, as Ken stands in his hotel room trying to deal with the obviously unhinged Harry. Phone call scenes can be hard to pull off, but Gleeson and Fiennes are splendid actors and create a classic scene.

Clemence Poesy, Jordan Prentice, Eric Godon as Yuri, the local arms dealer, Zeljko Ivanek as an unlucky Canadian in a restaurant and Ciaran Hinds as a priest all give solid supporting turns. In Bruges is a superior entertainment, and definitely worth a rental. One of the best films of 2008.

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