The phrase “darkly comic” is one that gets bandied about a lot and quite often its just for things that either aren’t very dark, or aren’t very funny – In Bruges however hits the nail of this phrase right on the head as it combines accidental child murder and gangland politics with some genuinely hilarious dialogue.
Setting the scene for us in very swift fashion with a bit of voice over and montage work over the opening titles we are soon left in the company of Ray and Ken, a pair of hitmen who’ve been sent, for reasons they aren’t totally sure of, to the Belgian town of Bruges and, save for one short scene, this is where the whole film takes place.
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson make for a perfect odd couple in the early part of the film as they try to kill time In Bruges with some great comic moments, particularly when they visit a couple of the local churches.
But, under all of this, Ray’s inner turmoil is slowly and expertly revealed, both by the script and by Farrell’s performance, which really draws the audience in and almost makes us feel like a third silent partner in this Waiting For Godot like limbo.
Soon though we find out maybe this isn’t the limbo it could be and some more traditional gangster movie elements slide in sideways alongside the character piece leading to a third act that, for me, was totally unexpected (though I have to admit the marketing, even the DVD cover, does hint at what is it come).
Following a second act that builds on the first, it is the arrival of Ralph Fiennes’s Harry in full force as we roll into act three that really cranks up the gears and we hit full on swearing and shooters British gangster mode.
What sets this apart from many of the Lock, Stock rip-offs of the late 90’s is the knowing nature of the film, leading to Harry even saying, “This is the shootout,” at one crucial moment.
This makes the film’s ultimate denouement, which could have sat very oddly alongside the first half of the film, fit in perfectly and complete the circle of the plot.
In terms of the technical side of the film it is not something I ever really noticed, which, in the case of a movie like this, is exactly how it should be – the filmmakers put us in the scene with the characters and let it all unravel and, while there are obviously some ‘basic’ effects shots, it is never anything that crashes the film to remind us this isn’t just real life.
Of all the films I’ve seen recently (most of which are documented here) In Bruges is certainly one of the best, and, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say its one of the most well-balanced and most genuinely all round entertaining films I’ve ever seen.