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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

In Bruges

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Jacqueline Monahan

In Bruges

Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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It’s a city in Belgium, and what happens there comprises this tale of hitmen on holiday. Why not hide out in anonymous Bruges (pronounced Broozh)? Known for its canals and ancient historic appeal, the place is home to an endless stream of tourists, a film crew, small town residents and two very different men who are partners in crime.

Ray (Colin Farrell) is escaping a painful past and his last hit – a priest whose death brought about an unexpected casualty. Older and more experienced of the two, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) is thoughtful and wants to sightsee, taking in the cultural sights afforded by the old city which dates back to medieval times. There are canals to float down, bell towers to climb to take in the panoramic scenery. Ray is having none of it, cursing his surroundings like a new, favorite mantra. To make matters worse, the pair must share a single room due to increased tourism during the Christmas season. Misery abounds for Ray while Ken is quite satisfied about making the best of any situation.

Things start to look up when Ray meets Chloe (Clémence Poésy) on a film set where he also meets midget actor, Jimmy, (Jordan Prentice). Chloe does not try to hide the fact that she sells drugs. Jimmy can’t hide the fact that he’s a dwarf. Ray is fascinated by both.

Meanwhile, back in London, Harry, (Ralph Fiennes) a low-class British crime boss with a family and a lot of money is the one who supplies assignments, or should I say “dispatches” to his men in the field. It seems that Ray will be the next to go for his last, botched job and subsequent unreliability. Would Ken please take care of that? Just pick up the gun from Yuri (Eric Godon) and do the job. Easy, or so you’d think.

The difference between the two hitmen is profound. Ken is sanguine, appreciative, and oddly moral within his profession. Ray is a hyper bolt of electricity, never satisfied, guilt-ridden, and easily bored. He gets into verbal scrapes with nearly everyone he meets, insulting fat tourists, and blowing smoke in a tough guy’s face during a restaurant meal with Chloe. It’s almost as if he’s living a purposely destructive life, waiting for someone to put him out of his misery. Harry’s happy to comply and sets off for Bruges to take care of Ken first, who is suddenly not so reliable with his new assignment (that of offing his roommate).

Add prostitutes, a Bosch painting depicting a brutal purgatory to punctuate Ray’s bouts of conscience, a suicide attempt, and code of honor surprises and you’ll indeed see what happens in Bruges.

In his feature debut, writer/director Martin McDonagh, an English playwright of Irish descent, (The Pillowman) has written a superb script and creates a bizarre world of dreary complacency amid violence. He’s clever with observations and details, such as how Jimmy would like to be referred to (midget or dwarf?) because it’s important to Ray. Yuri the gun dealer wonders about architectural terms. Jimmy gets high on horse tranquilizer and is certain of an eventual race war between black and white midgets.

Dialogue is clever, trifling and telling all at once. It’s funny what someone will focus on, what detail will snag a thought and warrant an extrapolation. You almost like these killers who expound on life, feel guilt, visit monuments and get bored. How like us they are, that is until the guns come out.

This is Farrell’s film, and I’ve never appreciated him more. With his thick, thuggy, Irish accent and quick bird movements, he makes you feel his restlessness, angst and shame. Gleeson is a good foil with his calm demeanor and rational thought patterns. Fienes, who enters the scene late in the film, is almost wild-eyed with aggression and impatience. Poésy is necessary as a love interest but is not that interesting of a character. Prentice can hold his own with sarcastic wit and dialogue that suggests he’s had plenty of practice hauling around that chip on his shoulder. Condon’s world-weary Yuri makes a convincing entrepreneur in a dark room with guns and bullets, especially the kind that explode internally.

In Bruges is quirky and surprising, dark and comedic, insisting that there is a bizarre moral honor among even the most evil of men. You’ll laugh, people will die – but maybe, refreshingly, not in that order.