Thursday, 8 May 2008

Review: In Bruges

Year: 2008
Director: Martin McDonagh
Screenwriter: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Jordan Prentice, Thekla Reuten

Three great central performances, captured in a beautiful city (trust me I've been) combined with a deviously dark wit and a well paced story (until some messy plot issues at the end) make up Martin McDonagh's In Bruges. The film took me by surprise owing more to No Country for old men than say Lock Stock or Snatch. McDonagh's film demonstrates that the bad guys become even more interesting when they have a crisis of fate.

After an a botched assassination hit, Ray (Farrell) has headed to Bruges with a fellow hitman named Ken, to hide out. The grumpy Ray ponders his fate while the gentler Ken spends his time sightseeing and tiring to reassure his younger assassin that everything will be fine. Unfortunately Harry (Fiennes), the boss that ordered the hit has other ideas.

While No Country for Old Men took an old school Mcguffin and turn that aspect of plot into a grand epic revisionist western. In Burges is more introspective keeping the focus purely on it's leads. When the film wasn't hitting me with punchy dialogue and one liners, there are brief moments of poignancy that stayed with me longer than the comedy. McDonagh develops his characters well, allowing them to stew in their situation bring forth characteristics slowly and allowing the chance for the characters to evolve into well rounded individuals. Ray and Ken feel like an Irish odd couple during the first half of the film, the banter comes in thick and fast, and you get to know them as they evolve and shift roles. At one point the two feel like an old married couple, two scenes later a spoilt brat and mother. The interaction is feels almost like a buddy cop movie, In Bruges comes across as Lethal Weapon for the other side.

The two leads give off two very different but effective performances. Farrell, in his most mature performance in ages, is brilliant. His comic timing and visual tics are hilairious and his acting range throughout the film is broad and engaging throughout. Glesson on the other hand uses his screen prescene to mass effect. His performance is gentle and fatherly, two things he's done before with ease but not with this much resonance. It's great to watch, as the two role complement each other so well it's constantly engrossing. You can't wait to see what the next guy is going to say next.

To round it off we are given brute energy of Ralph Fiennes as a fiendishly loutish cherry on top of the main duo. Fiennes role is like a tornado, with chaos happening everywhere he goes. Be it at home with the family (delightfully awkward Xmas moment) or when he finally appears in Bruges. Not only has he some of the best lines in the movie, his delivery gives them more punch and humor. A character that can easily be forgotten is given a wonderfully animated touch. The support range from the thankless (Clemence Poesy) to the memorable (Jordan Prentice)

The screenplay written by McDonagh (who is also theatre playwright) is one full of cracking one liners and amusing, un-p.c moments. These moments are forced to meld with moments of poignancy. However McDonagh clearly understands context, these are despicable characters and their moments of offensiveness only illustrate and highlight their phobias and isolation (expect for Fiennes who is clearly just an 'orrible cunt). The story overdoes it's ending, in particular a death which goes on for too long and ends with a very unconvincing plot moment. But up until that point the story moves at a steady pace and redeems itself after a few missteps.

In Burges doesn't have massive set pieces or the now familiar traits of the new wave Brit gangland movies. Howevcr its story is ten times stronger then most of the Guy Richie imitators/nick love films and for the most part the film is laugh out loud funny. I was almost embarrassed with how loud I laughed at some of the jokes. To add to this In Burge reminded me of how much I love small films when I get the chance to see them. The general jaded feel that can happen with some of Hollywood's bigger movies is lost when going into something like this. The laughs come naturally, the drama works well and the story is fulfilling. While it may not be remembered in those big books of blockbusting box office stats, In Burge is more likely to remain in the memory of those who were lucky to see it.