I have never been to Bruges, so I cannot confirm if Ray (Colin Farrell) is correct in his assessment, but based on In Bruges, it looks lovely. While some might think In Bruges is just another blackly comic gangster thriller that followed in the wake of Pulp Fiction, to me the film owes as much to Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter as it does to Tarantino.
Hitmen Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are hiding it out in the Belgian Gothic city – a place that looks like a chocolate box as far as the uncultured Ray is concerned – awaiting instructions from their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) after a job Ray does goes horribly wrong. And waiting. And missing Harry’s call. Writer-director Martin MacDonagh must surely acknowledge Pinter as an influence (and Pinter’s forebear Samuel Beckett a little bit) in a screenplay that seems to tilt effortlessly between the bleakly funny and the tragically melancholic.
And, man, it is funny, with top-notch performances. I don’t know if Colin Farrell has ever quite matched what he does here, tapping into his boyish charm, his cocksure swagger, and his mournful soul all at once. Those puppy dog eyes and quizzical eyebrows have never been put to such good use.
Brendan Gleeson couldn’t give a bad performance if he tried. As the older of the pair he’s wise, cynical, and fatherly, and really just wants to enjoy the sights of the city. “Bruges is the most well-preserved Medieval town in Belgium, apparently.” It’s a marvellous performance, especially in the film’s closing moments when he plays opposite Ralph Fiennes (hilarious as a foul-mouthed Cockney villain).
There are many incidental pleasures in the film: the film-set sequence (“they’re filming midgets!”); the run-in with an American tourist (who turns out to be Canadian); the scenery of Bruges itself; the final shoot-out. There aren’t many films that can get away with using Luke Kelly singing “Raglan Road” in the way that MacDonagh uses it here. And there is the hilarious, foul-mouthed script (In Bruges puts the C-word to inventive use to a degree that would put Game of Thrones to shame).
Verdict: Four Gay Beers out of Five