I’ve actually been to Bruges. At one point Ray (Colin Farrell) remarks that he wants to “hide out in a proper country where it isn’t all just fucking chocolate”. There was chocolate in Bruges, but I didn’t get any because they had it all locked up behind exhibits in the museum, and what was there was bloody expensive. A chocolate museum that only gives you chocolate buttons as you enter? Maybe I’m not as culturally mature as I should be, or at least I wasn’t when I went to Bruges. “In Bruges” somehow made me want to go back even after I heard Ray repeatedly express his disdain for the place. “It’s a shithole” he says, and maybe he’s right, but they wanted me to pay for the luxury of going to the toilet, so I wouldn’t know.
Ray and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are two hit-men who’ve just botched a job somewhat in London. They have been told by their employer, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to get to Bruges (it’s in Belgium) and await further orders. Bruges is the last place on earth Ray wants to be and he even seems to believe that maybe hell is simply an eternity spent in Bruges. Ken is far more cultured than Ray and looks forward to spending his allocated two weeks being a low profile tourist and taking in the wonderful medieval city. I’m going to leave the plot sounding potentially boring for you because the way the plot unfolds and the narrative surrounding it is by far and away the best thing about “In Bruges”. Needless to say, there are complications and things get significantly more stressful for Ray and Ken, and these complications involve their psychotic employer Harry.
I could sit and listen to the characters of “In Bruges” talk for years at a time. Everything, and I do mean everything, they say is captivating. It’s a black comedy and you’ll know it from the start and Ray especially is expertly portrayed by Colin Farrell, he slots right into the film’s unconventional humour effortlessly. He feels like a little boy who just wants to get back to playing with his toys instead of looking at all the “old buildings” with his Dad, whilst at the same time possesses an incredibly colourful vocabulary that I’ve not seen put to such effective use since I watched “In the Loop” with Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker. He can sometimes be downright deplorable, like when he tells some overweight tourists they can’t go up the Belfry of Bruges because they’re a bunch of elephants. It’s such a horrible thing to say to someone but the way Farrel speaks and acts, complete with his little boy persona, make it seem far less malicious and far more hilarious than it really should be. You wouldn’t instantly hate a child just for throwing one tantrum would you? I hate children because they talk too much, if they said anything half as interesting as Rays dialogue in this film, I’d be more inclined to allow the little gremlins into my house. Martin McDonagh, who also directed the excellent “Seven Psychopaths”, is undeniably the master of black comedy and has proven himself of that beyond all doubt. I was frequently in stitches throughout, to the extent that I had to pause and rewind a few moments just to experience it again. Will it be to everyone’s taste? No, of course it won’t be, comedy has an inescapable subjectivity associated with it. Those familiar with McDonagh’s work will be right at home here however.
It’s hard to describe how exactly “In Bruges” accomplishes what it does. It’s biggest achievement is how the plot reveals itself. It doesn’t feel pre-determined, it feels as if these characters go about their business as they naturally would and what happens in the plot is just something that would happen to them. There aren’t any contrivances, no deus ex machina, just a bumpy ride towards the end. As a direct result of the brilliant characterisation, we feel as if we know what the characters would naturally do when they are or aren’t in a tricky situation. Everything about “In Bruges” just feels very real and incredibly fluid, it boggles the mind how little this movie resembles a movie, in the best way possible of course.
“In Bruges” will make you laugh, it’ll make you seize up with tension and it’ll depress you. It is one of those films that I have absolutely no problem watching over and over again just to make sure that more people see it. It may have slipped under your radar but you really should make the effort for this one, it really is that significant. So significant in fact that while filming, the mayor of Bruges asked everyone to keep out their Christmas decorations (the films set around Christmas time) for filming, after explaining why.
I can only assume that Martin McDonagh didn’t mention that the running joke of the film would be how crap Bruges was, poor mayor.