We’re only a few months into 2008 but as of this review, Colin Farrell has starred in my two favorite films so far—first with his against type role as a sensitive, morally plagued gambler who is asked to commit murder in Cassandra’s Dream and second for his role as an assassin who is also plagued by morality with his turn in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. Mc Donagh, an Irish playwright who earned an Academy Award for his live action short Six Shooter makes his feature debut with this startlingly original, shocking, funny, tragic and surprisingly touching comedic crime drama about two hitmen who are asked to leave their native Dublin when a hit goes unspeakably wrong and hide out in the fairytale like Flemish city of Bruges.
In stark contrast to the gorgeous gothic architecture and haunting canals that make Bruges “the most well-preserved medieval city” in Belgium, Ray (Farrell) tries his hardest not to blend in with the tourist traffic by either folding his arms or sticking his hands in his pockets, grimacing at the ground, and shuffling his feet in exasperation when prodded to take in the legendary scenery by his elder father-like mentor hitman Ken (a terrific Brendan Gleeson) who is determined to enjoy himself. Sent to await instructions from their terrifying boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) who is mostly overheard on the phone before his first appearance that’s augmented by the fact that, (similar to Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast), he is discussed so much that we’re riveted and frightened when he finally gets in on the action. Soon secrets of Ray’s last job are revealed and they try to cope with the aftermath with Ken hoping to distract his associate with more sightseeing and Ray becoming fascinated by both an American dwarf (Jordan Prentice) and a gorgeous Belgian named Chloe (Clemence Posey) who are working on a film set in Bruges.
While it’s Ray who immediately commands viewer’s attention with his narration at the start of the film (that earns In Bruges an R rating only moments in) that typifies the tremendous and highly quotable layered writing of McDonagh which becomes the film’s signature, look for an outstanding performance from Gleeson (who I later realized like Fiennes and Posey had a role in the Harry Potter series as Mad-Eye Moody) that evokes our sympathy and interest early on as he, like Ray evolves throughout the film. Memorable, furiously original and intelligent filmmaking that sets In Bruges apart from most crime comedies in the genre by invoking pathos and heart, it’s in limited release throughout the country but well-worth tracking down if Bruges is playing in your area, not to mention one you’ll instantly want to call your friends about as soon as it’s over to recommend.