Bruges adds star performances to dark comedy

For me the ideal hell would be to have to do useless homework assignments for all eternity while being forced to watch Mrs. Doubtfire on a loop. For newbie assassin Ray, played by Colin Farrell, his personal hell is to be stuck in Bruges, Belgium for all eternity.

Despite this however, his boss Harry, played by Ralph Fiennes, is forcing him to enjoy the fairy tale scenery of the medieval village, whose biggest patrons appear to be overweight Americans and out-of-place mobsters.

With his coworker Ken, played by Brendan Gleeson, Ray must survive racist midgets, the allure of drug dealing bombshells and his own personal demons from a job gone wrong all while waiting In Bruges.

Initially this film advertises itself as an action comedy. The humor is present at its raw British best, but the idea that this film is a straight up action or comedic movie is very misleading.

I went into the film expecting it to be something along the lines of a Guy Ritchie movie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch). However, I was pleasantly surprised by its darkness and the level of drama that is reminiscent of movies like Grosse Point Blank.

This is only Martin McDonagh’s second film after his transition from stage to screen. McDonagh does an amazing job depicting the scenery while juxtaposing Ray and Ken next to the indigenous inhabitants of Bruges. His writing also makes a major impact on the speed of the story’s progression.

Bruges runs one hour and 41 minutes, which originally seems a bit too short for the amount of story that needs to be told. Despite this, McDonagh ties up all of the loose ends by the end of the film, albeit in a way that is a bit darker than most viewers would have expected.

Needless to say, the movie is packaged, cued and scripted well. Unfortunately this scripting at times works too well as it occasionally telegraphs plot twists. The upside is that the film does not pull any punches.

Farrell does his best work in this film. His traditional Irish brogue breathes life into the tormented character that is Ray. Farrell’s portrayal of Ray runs the gamut of human emotions. We immediately get a sense of how out of place Ray and Ken are as they masquerade as tourists. All the while we catch glimpses of Ray’s dark past while he makes discoveries about the nature of both life and redemption.

Meanwhile, Gleeson is the perfect counterpoint to Farrell onscreen. While Ray is cocky and uncouth, Ken is calm, collected and cultured. It is at Ken’s behest that much of the sightseeing takes place within the movie as the duo awaits further instructions from the boss.

Ken’s back story is penned well, making him more than just a cardboard support character, and he compliments Ray’s darker elements.

Lastly, Fiennes does a fantastic job as Harry. Harry is reminiscent of other badass British villains such as Brick Top Polford in Snatch.

Of Fiennes’s other villainous roles, this is by far the most humorous. After the audience is introduced to Harry, it immediately becomes apparent that he is quick to anger. However, he isn’t an indiscriminate killer and lives by a very strict set of morals.

Harry even expects his employees to adhere to his sense of morality, lest they find themselves on his bad side. In terms of the dialogue, it is also a reasonable bet that Harry is responsible for at least 50-60% of all the swearing in the movie—all of which is necessary, I assure you.

Overall, In Bruges could easily be one of the year’s most memorable films.

The unique blend of comedy, action and drama result in a movie that has something for everyone. In the end it is up to the audience to determine whether Bruges is truly the hell that Ray makes it out to be, or something more.

Throughout the one hour and 41 minute tour there will be laughs, mayhem and wonder as the audience loses itself In Bruges.