prefers action to culture: Farrell, In Bruges.
by Martin McDonagh
Much of what works best in the playwright Martin McDonagh’s
debut movie, In Bruges, is the repetitive patterning,
with slight differences of inflection, of dialogue. Of course,
it matters immensely that said dialogue comes in the lilting
Irish brogues of stars Brendan Gleeson (Ken) and Colin Farrell
(Ray), who play a couple of hit men on orders by their boss
Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to sightsee in the eponymous Belgian
city after a hit gone horribly awry. At one point, Ken, who
savors the opportunity to soak in the medieval mysteries of
Hieronymus Bosch, instructs the stir-crazy Ray that they will
attempt to strike a balance between culture and fun. Ray counters
that, somehow, he believes that the balance will tilt toward
culture. The pleasure is in the delivery, the pure love of
language that distinguishes Irish writers.
fucking Bruges?” Ray keeps asking. Indeed, this Belgian city,
which is the oldest maintained example of medieval villages
in existence, takes a lot of shots, notably later when Harry
remarks how it’s really too bad, but possibly necessary, that
Bruges has to be in a country nobody cares about. McDonagh’s
stagy roots show clearly here, as Ray and Ken spend countless
hours camped out in a hotel room, having contemplative discussions
about the nature of their careers and the existence of Purgatory.
Gleeson, as the older and presumably wiser of the two, subtly
conveys a protective, almost fatherly concern for his flip,
yet profoundly disturbed, underling, and the development of
this relationship provides a poignant subtext for what follows.
Just when things seem to be getting slow, Harry bursts onto
the scene, and the deadly purpose of the Bruges tour is evident.
McDonagh still has plenty to learn about the differences between
play- and moviemaking. Do Irish thugs really talk like this?
The director-screenwriter hasn’t met a metaphor or bit of
symbolism that he doesn’t grab on tightly to and thrust at
us. Still, there’s a neat bit of six-degrees-of-separation
percolating throughout, that gives a nice edge to the plot,
and his allusions to classic noirs like Touch of Evil
are appreciated. At best, In Bruges is an amusing,
at times moving, trifle, but it’s three main performers give
you so much to sink your teeth into. In particular, Farrell
proves, as he did with Cassandra’s Dream, that he’s
not just some dreamy matinee idol starring in a string of
forgettable disasters, but an accomplished, if still maturing,
character actor. It gives moviegoers something to hope for.