Tuesday Timeshift: #2 In Bruges (film)

A dwarf, 2 hitmen, a wannabe skinhead, a sexy girl and a few grams of cocaine.  Sounds like fun huh?  It is. It’s also really, grimly serious.

Funny thing to do to an audience… the black comedy is pretty strong, the internal struggle themes are pretty strong, the romance is pretty strong, the action gore is pretty strong… so what the hell kinda movie is this?

In Bruges, stars Colin Farrell in a rubber-faced turn as Ray, a first-time contract killer.  That kid has some serious eyebrow action going on.  Forehead caterpillars notwithstanding, Farrell does a pretty good job in the role.  He adequately conveys Ray’s struggle in dealing with the consequences of his choices.  These are weighty issues. We’re not talking about ‘victimless’ crimes here – killers knocking off killers and other equally forgiveable bad guys – we’re talking serious conscience-grinding murder. 

Of course, it’s not all soul-searching blackness.  Farrell is a young, sexy actor so we do have the requisite hottie in Chloe (Clémence Poésy – who you might remember from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).  Chloe is an excellent character.  Sure she’s just there to look attractive and soften Ray’s character, but she is beguiling, intriguing and very very sexy.  Oh, and a drug-dealer.  Did I mention that?

When all’s said and done, this is a buddy film through and through.  Ken, played by Brendan Gleeson, another Harry Potter alumni, is Ray’s mentor.  Gleeson is excellent.  He brings a real quietness to the role which contrasts well to Ray’s ebullience.  Their relationship is the cliche of the older-guy-teacher who patiently waits for his younger, brasher student to grow up and ultimately sacrificing so much for his young charge.  To call it a cliche is not a criticism, it conveys an understanding of the roles they have taken on with each other. 

Serious or romantic moments are often punctuated with humour, like when Ray, in the middle of a perfectly mushy first date with Chloe, stops and suddenly punches an American in the face and says “That’s for John Lennon”.  Or when drowning his inner turmoil in a bottle of whisky, Ray abruptly stands up and invites a prostitute-engrossed “midget” up to his room for some cocaine.  The comedy serves well to lighten and shake things up, to really get things moving in a different direction.

Oddly, there is plenty of gore – they are hit men after all – but somehow it doesn’t sit quite right.  The comedy is too off-beat and the subject matter too weighty so the gore seems over the top.  It belongs in an alien movie not indie black comedy.

Ray and Ken encounter many others characters – each of whom is a pleasure to watch.  Particularly Ralph Fiennes as Harry, their boss, who is intense, manic and scary as hell.  The town of Bruges looms very large in the film, certainly a character in it’s own right.  Bruges seems beautiful, peaceful, quirky and very, very dark.  Which is a both a metaphor and a foil for the unfolding situation.

In Bruges, is entertaining.  The script is cleverly crafted, the dialogue excellent and comedy pleasing.  Somehow it doesn’t all fit together perfectly.  It’s a fun film and certainly worth seeing, but ultimately ever so slightly unsatisfying.

Out September 4.

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