Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to highlight films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
…the United Kingdom! Yes, it does count as a foreign country even if the local denizens do speak a pre-bastardized version of our own English language. In Bruges is where two hitmen find themselves hiding out after their last job in London goes bad. In Bruges is also the delightful and easily mispronounced title of the most enjoyable film you probably haven’t seen this year.
Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are hitmen instructed to “Get the fuck out of London yous dumb fucks. Get to Bruges” after a hit on a priest goes tragically awry. The two find themselves sharing a room in a Belgian B&B, taking in the town’s beauty and history during the day, and awaiting a phone call from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) each night. While Ken is entranced by Bruges’ medieval charm and appeal, Ray is entirely nonplussed by the architectural allure of canals, castles, and cobblestone streets. Ray spends much of his time fidgeting and wishing he were anywhere else but Bruges. As he tells Ken after being criticized for his lack of interest in the quaint and quiet town, “Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”
In Bruges is the feature directorial debut of Martin McDonagh who also wrote the film. His dialogue is funny, smart, and incredibly non-pc. Each member of the cast shines… Gleeson with his dependable and lived-in features, Fiennes channeling his inner Ben “Sexy Beast” Kingsley… but it’s Farrell who surprises with impeccable timing, tone, and warmth. One line I won’t ruin for you here involving a fat girl on a seesaw had me laughing so hard I couldn’t stop until well into the next scene. Farrell impresses with more than just his comedic skills however, as he reminds the viewer why he was once considered the next big thing in male movie stars. He walks a fragile line with Ray, moving deftly between humorous dialogue, sweet vulnerability, and guilt-inspired observations on responsibility and life as he comes to terms with what happened in London.
To say more of the plot would be to rob you of your own enjoyment, so I’ll simply say a racist American dwarf and a cute Belgian drug dealer join the party before it all comes to a brilliantly bloody crash with the arrival of boss man Harry. Like Farrell’s performance, In Bruges itself is a collection of delicate but perfect contrasts. Ray and Ken are polar opposites like you’d find in any respectable buddy movie, with the former new to the hitman game and the latter in it just a little too long. The town of Bruges is a beautiful fairy tale kingdom where ugly acts of bloody violence take place. A hitman confesses the sin of a murder he’s about to commit, while a young boy nearby prepares to atone for “being moody, being bad at maths, being sad.” Like Farrell’s Ray, In Bruges moves effortlessly (and sometimes abruptly) from dark comedy to bloody tragedy. The best any film can do is to entertain you and stimulate your mind, and In Bruges does both with style.
In Bruges releases on DVD June 24th.