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 (Cl√©mence Po√©sy –¬†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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