Colin Farrell may not have the best track record when it comes to his film choices, but by starring in Martin McDonagh’s latest effort “In Bruges” it is safe to say that he has redeemed himself. In this action packed comedy, chosen as Sundance Film Festival’s opening night selection, McDonagh, who served as both writer and director, keeps the bullets flying and the laughs coming with such comedy gold as Farrell karate chopping a midget (Jordan Prentice) in the neck.
Bruges may seem like an odd location for the setting of a film, especially one as wrought with vulgarity and violence as “In Bruges,” but the city is just as important of a character as the film’s stars. Located in the Flemish region of Belgium, the medieval city is a world heritage site as much of its architecture is well preserved. The picturesque city does not offer much more than sightseeing, and for some characters in the film this causes a problem.
After a botched hit, two contract killers from London, Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are sent to Bruges by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to lay low for a few days and await instructions. While Ken acts as a tourist and enjoys the sights and culture of the city, Ray is sullen due to the lack of excitement the city has to offer. After befriending Jimmy, a little person actor, and disregarding Harry’s orders, Ray and Ken find themselves in a bit of trouble that allows for many laughs and plenty of violence.
The film takes off running right from the start. I am not one that particularly enjoys narration in films, but the brevity and sporadic nature of Ray’s voiceovers allows the viewer to connect with the characters and dive into the action immediately.
The film’s swift start sets the tone for the rest of the feature. There are no great lulls in the film. Most scenes have action or witty dialogue, and should a scene be lacking either, rest assured that the next scene will contain one if not both of the elements that make this film such a success.
Much of the success of this film can be attributed to writer and director McDonagh. Known best for writing Tony award winning plays, McDonagh’s ability to combine hilarious dialogue with life threatening violence sets this film apart from others. The dialogue in the film is quick, witty and never feels forced. Farrell and Gleeson play so well off of each other that they truly become their characters. While the content of the dialogue is generally one liners from Ray, “In Bruges'” serious undertones questioning life, death and morality give the audience a better chance to relate to those onscreen.
It is not just dialogue that helps “In Bruges” to achieve success; there is also the right amount of violence and bloodshed. Combining both gunplay and hand to hand combat, McDonagh sprinkles his film with an effective amount of violence at the right time. This film is not excessively violent; in fact, all the violence shown is essential to the story. McDonagh should be commended on his portrayal of the consequences of violence in his film. In far too many action movies do we see guns being fired repeatedly followed by no injuries or blood. All the violence in this film leads to realistic injuries or even death.
While the success of the film was due in part to the well written screenplay, that alone will get a filmmaker nowhere without an able cast. The “In Bruges” cast is limited, but topnotch nonetheless. Farrell’s portrayal of an unsure hit man with a need for entertainment and excitement is amazing. With this performance, I am willing to forget that I paid to see “Alexander.” He is so genuine in the role of Ray, the way in which he continually delivers line after line, the innocent look of fascination that possesses his face when he sees a midget, that the viewer cannot help but to identify and love him.
Gleeson playing opposite Farrell is movie magic. Gleeson’s performance as the wise, sage-like hit man was the perfect foil to Farrell’s Ray. Gleeson portrays Ken without the urgency that can be sensed in Farrell’s performance; that is to say that he completely embodied that jaded, ready and willing to change hit man. The onscreen chemistry between the two actors was somewhere between old friends and a strange father-son relationship.
Fiennes as the angry, ruthless boss was brilliant. Never have I heard the same vulgarity repeated that many times and with even more force than previously said. Fiennes was so convincing, the urge to kill was apparent in his eyes. One of the smaller parts, no pun intended, was filled by Prentice, an American dwarf actor. I have not seen such good acting from Prentice since “Howard the Duck.” His dry humor is welcomed to help the viewer fully appreciate the humor in the scenes he shares with Farrell and Gleeson.
This film is the perfect hybrid of comedy and action. With McDonagh’s excellent screenwriting and the perfect cast, “In Bruges” should be keeping theaters packed and audiences entertained.
Allison Hurwitz is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in film criticism. She can be reached at AH592893@wcupa.edu.