In Bruges (2008), or Shooting The Messenger

30 09 2009

Well, folks, much like Monday’s Chasing Amy review, it seems that I have to eat my poorly-timed words. I could lie and say that I was impressed with the trailer for this movie when it came out. I could say that on principle this independent feature HAD to garner some attention from me. I could also say that I’m a rakishly handsome black man from Barbados, but I doubt you would believe me. I looked at In Bruges with slight derision as it featured Colin “What’s My Line Again?” Farrell darting about a drab colorless Western European locale while complaining the whole time. Seriously, the trailer makes it look abysmal. Tell me that you couldn’t wait to see that after watching the trailer and I’ll tell you that you are a liar. But after just seeing it, I was more than pleasantly surprised about the outcome of this venture. It’s a black comedy/drama that plays fast and loose with the modern European identity but has enough emotional weight to be more than a droll indie guffaw.

It begins with a  hit gone wrong. Ray is a first-time hit man who has been ordered to kill a priest for some reason. Things go awry very quickly, and, to his dismay, amid all the turmoil of this hit he accidentally shoots and kills a young boy. Ray escapes, but his boss doesn’t want him coming back just yet, so he and his older partner Ken are sent to Bruges, Belgium to lay low and await further instructions. Ken is thrilled to take a break from the city life and go sightseeing, but Ray’s guilty conscience pangs him day and night, allowing him no comfort in what he sees as a dreary old town with nothing fun to do. Things gradually get better for him when a sexy romance starts between him and a local colorful character named Chloe, and for a time things seem like they might not be so bad. But a fight with a wacky Canadian couple, the nagging weight of his crime, and the eventual call back from pissed off hitman boss Harry all loom large to the small-time assassin. Can our hero take the time to enjoy his surroundings like protegé Ken, or is he doomed to be a sad little guy for the rest of his days?

The thing I enjoyed most about In Bruges is that there is so much variety, and yet it doesn’t seem scattered. It’s a comedy, it’s a buddy flick, it’s a gut-wrenching drama, it’s a shoot-em-up. It has all these elements and it keeps them all together like a house made out of extremely European cards. Nothing seems off-kilter for this film, even when the mood changes on a dime like it does in most scenes. Although I prefer the comedy here, personally, as it seems the most appropriate response for all the weird shit going on in Bruges.

Two actors really stand out here. Brendan Gleeson as Ken is a perfect choice. Bravo to whoever made that call! I love Ken! He’s one easygoing hit man. I like his attitude towards life, and especially Bruges. He acts around historical stuff the same way I would. When he tells Ray, “We shall strike a balance between culture and fun,” it makes me wish Ken would take ME on a vacation. I love that shit. Also, Jordan Prentice, one of my new favorite character actors, plays a filmmaker named Jimmy here who makes this picture 500 times funnier. He’s shooting the freakiest picture I’ve ever seen, and while it doesn’t seem to be working out for him too well, it’s working out for me perfectly.

Oh, and Colin Farrell? Eh. I could’ve done without him, but I know more than a few girls who would gladly kill a large animal with their bare hands to sleep with that man, so maybe I’M the crazy one. He’s not as jaw-droppingly awful as he was in, say, Daredevil, but him being the main character is hardly a treat for me. let’s just say he doesn’t fuck it all up here.

If watching cinematography this whole time has taught me anything, it’s how to look at things in a completely different perspective. Bruges is one of those cities that, at first glance, appears lifeless and listless. But in the hands of someone with a good head on their shoulders, in this case Martin McDonagh, Bruges really came alive for me. It’s cozy and majestic at the same time. Between the medieval and 19th century French architecture, the bruised and wind-battered skies, and a few fancy cobblestone streets, it’s a town that I would visit in a heartbeat. The town seems to slowly transform from a backwards yokel town to a beautiful and cozy nook in Western Europe seemingly before my eyes! What do you know; it’s a movie and a Travelogue!

But in all seriousness, In Bruges is another movie I might have judged prematurely. It’s actually pretty good, if you can get behind a Colin Farrell vehicle. There’s a lot of good human drama and machine-gun rapid European humor. You’ll enjoy yourself the whole way through, with the impressive juggling of genres and the delightful rapport between Farrell and Gleeson. If you have to see one movie with big movie stars set in Belgium this year, make it In Bruges. I give it 8 Belgium assassins out of 10!

Tomorrow I’m going to the River’s Edge! Until then!