Written by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Jérémie Renier
Some cities just are not everyone’s cup of tea, which mostly gets determined by the individual’s taste in attractions, cuisine, and the people generally inhabiting the area. Some people hate the hustle and bustle of New York City while others cannot stand the slower pace of Tallahassee. However, the amount of hatred the protagonist of this feature harbors for the city referenced in the title pretty much sums up the scintillating and hilarious comedy on display. A complete treat and one that shocks you how bad these characters can be while still being lovable.
After messing up on his first stint as a hitman, Ray (Colin Farrell) must spend some time in Bruges with his partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson). As they wait for more instructions, Ken tries to enjoy the scenery and make the most of it while Ray simply cannot get over he has to spend so much time in freaking Bruges.
The animosity held in this feature serves as such an apt introduction to the voice of Martin McDonagh in the world of feature filmmaking. Incredibly blunt with his language spoken through the characters, everyone in this film has a particular edge but none more so than Ray. Serving as his feature directorial debut, McDonagh establishes his style in glistening fashion and perhaps allows his own hatred for the city of Bruges to get the best of him as Ray spends so much time trashing everything about it. The biting comedy only gets better, or worse, depending on your general outlook on his work but man he provides so much to enjoy within this narrative.
Ray becomes such an intriguing character to follow because much like him, we’re trying to figure out exactly why needs to hide out in Bruges of all places after his first hit. He carries himself pretty much like a child for a good majority of the film with Ken essentially working through this as a parent. All the pieces have not been placed, but once they do things click in an incredibly effective manner, which serves as a testament to McDonagh’s screenplay. We get so absorbed by these characters and the shenanigans they get into that when the hammer drops in the narrative, it truly makes a dent and shifts the tone of what will occur next. This shift does not necessarily occur in a gradual manner but done in a way that leaves its mark.
The heinous jokes and utterances of Ray dominate much of the comedy occurring in the feature and the way an audience member vibes with him will dictate the overall enjoyment one can have with this feature. Unafraid to say exactly what he thinks, Ray’s miserable outlook on spending time in Bruges gets rubbed off on other characters. For example, there is an instance where he sits out in front of a church with a bell tower that can be climbed. He sees three obese Americans making their way to the entrance and when asked by them if he recommends the climb, he insinuates there would be no way the family can fit up the steps. The reaction goes about as well as you can imagine, but it demonstrates the bratty behavior of this character but Colin Farrell sells it so incredibly well.
After a stint in his career where he tried to be “the leading man,” one of the greatest turns in the actor’s career came from Farrell grasping he’s a character actor in a leading man’s body. He completely loses himself in this role and his collaborations with McDonagh have produced plenty of wonderful work. Farrell takes the harsh comedy and delivers it in such an irreverent manner that it almost feels unbelievable what comes out of his mouth. As the narrative continues, this effect never really left because he goes there with his insults, unafraid of what the reaction from the recipients may be. The biggest trick of them indicating a successful performance by Farrell comes from Ray remaining fairly likable throughout all of his pettiness. As the reason for their presence in Bruges becomes more apparent, the more you feel for him while still acknowledging the man is such a terrible person. Seriously, a downright scumbag in so many ways, but still fairly likable.
While Brendan Gleeson brings the heart of the story, the defining supporting performance came from Ralph Fiennes who does not appear in most of the feature, but when he does, he’s a firecracker that never stops popping. His initial presence comes from phone calls but once he makes an appearance in Bruges, he brings this menacing demeanor that reminds the audience these characters practice in the trade of cold-blooded murder. He’s a force not to be messed with in this feature and everything he says becomes such a treat to the ears as he unleashes this pent-up aggression in a town that overall feels incredibly pleasant.
While not serving as a tourist advertisement by any means for the city of Bruges, this feature does show its lovely aspects as these three assassins play their little games. With In Bruges, Martin McDonagh creates an equally hilarious, offensive, heartwarming, and thoroughly entertaining story to follow. He displays his trademarks within his writing but steps up as a director to demonstrate what makes these surroundings such a lovely background for some dangerous stuff about to go down. Truly a unique cinematic experience and one that will not allow you to forget the creative ways these characters can insult each other and the city around them.