2008 – Martin McDonagh
Rated R – 107 minutes
Vault Rating: 8
“In Bruges” is that little gem of a movie that Vault lives to find. It is the movie you’ve probably not seen which exceeds any possible expectations you might have. I’ve been trying to get Mrs. Vault to stop and look, but she won’t take the time. “It doesn’t sound good,” says the critic who perfectly enjoyed “27 Dresses.”
I appeal to the reader. What it sounds like is the story of two Irish hit men who are sent to Bruges, Belgium, to vacation while the heat blows over in London from a recent job. They are, at first blush, a mobbish Laurel and Hardy.
Ken (Brendan Gleeson) is taken with the city, “The most well preserved medieval town in the whole of Belgium,” he explains as he dives into the culture. Ray (Colin Farrell) is younger, a bit more high-strung, and cannot appreciate the town’s attractions until he discovers a girl who is, shall we say, working with a film crew which is taking advantage of the city’s evocative locales.
Complications arise for the viewer when we are shown the job that went bad and then discover that our heroes have been sent to Bruges for multiple purposes.
One loves a mob boss (Harry, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes) who gets the most out of his men by resorting to the old working vacation. After all, what is a movie about contract killers if there is no contract? But Ken and Ray have been softened by circumstances and regret to inform Harry that they cannot carry out his orders.
When Harry arrives in Bruges we are treated to a look inside the code of ethics that binds such men. As they sit down we find they are loyal and honest to a fault.
“Harry, let’s face it. I mean, I’m not bein’ funny,” says Ken. “No disrespect. But you’re a ****. You’re a **** now. You’ve always been a ****. And the only thing that’s gonna change is you’re gonna become an even bigger ****. And you’ll have some more **** kids.”
“Leave my kids ****ing out of it! What have they done? You ****ing retract that bit about my **** ****ing kids,” says Harry.
“I retract the bit about your **** ****ing kids.”
There are many sequences “In Bruges” that act like this; many turns of scri pt that are at once outrageously funny, yet grave. Even as Ken thanks Harry for all he’s done for him, he’s also saying that, regardless of the possibly lethal consequences, there are some orders that even a contract killer cannot obey.
As this surprising film pivots from a sort of comedy-drama to an action picture, the unbending moral codes of each of our principals is tested through to a satisfying climax. Because each character is believable and right in his own world, “In Bruges” is separated above the typical action film to something quite better.
With the estimable star power brought by Fiennes, Farrell and Gleeson; with a sharply observed scri pt and a healthy, novel, dose of action; once director McDonagh tosses in midgets and prostitutes we are left with an admirable film about some less than admirable blokes. We are thrilled to recommend it!