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101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2008
Martin Mc Donagh's "In Bruges" proves at least one thing once and for all: Colin Farrell is a thoughtful, emotionally open, soon to do very great things on the screen, actor...something that anyone who has seen "Tigerland" and "Home at the End of the World" already knows despite evidence to the contrary: "S.W.A.T," "Alexander," "Miami Vice," etc. etc.
'If I'd grown up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn't, so it doesn't" says Ray (Farrell) to his fellow hit man, Ken (burly Brendan Gleeson): both sent to Bruges, Belgium to cool off after a bloody hit that unfortunately went woefully wrong.
This is McDonagh's first film as Director/Writer and it is evident that he has a great eye for detail both in the sparkling, smart-*ss dialogue as well as with the stunning visual vocabulary of movies. Bruges is a beautiful city: ancient, redolent of the many lives lived there with its cobblestone streets, masonry buildings and outdoor plazas. As such, staid, old lady of Belgium Bruges stands in vivid contrast to the Irish duo of middle-aged, seen-it-all, supposedly Gay, interested in the sights and history of the city Ken and the emotionally over-wrought, painfully sensitive Ray: nervous, anxious, wanting to party, sporadically breaking out in sobs...literally an open emotional wound desperate for succor, blatantly remorseful, seeking redemption in all the wrong places.
"In Bruges" roils over with goofy, silly dialogue (mostly spoken by Farrell who proves very adept at delivering it in droll, wry, ironic style) and profanity, violent bursts of gunfire, and jokes at the expense of dwarfs and Americans. Screenwriter McDonagh steers his odd couple Irishmen through a series of strange/odd situations in which questions of honor, friendship and mortality are mulled. The older Gleeson also proves to be the grounded one: good at what he does (that is kill people) and able, by his very presence to calm Ray down.
Ralph Fiennes is also on hand here and plays Ray and Ken's boss, a mean-spirited bloke who talks in Michael Caine-Cockney cadences and arrives in Bruges to make sure that a hit, assigned to Ken is carried out without fail.
"In Bruges" shares many of the surface traits of such films as Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" but, though great as "Pulp Fiction" is, it doesn't have the heart and soul of Mc Donagh's "In Bruges": a film that satisfies the thriller/action genes of us all but also digs very deep below and reveals the true natures of its very conflicted, ultimately very human characters.
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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2008
How to describe this deceptively simple film is the hardest place to begin. The plot's fairly simple: Two Irish hit-men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are sent to Bruges (in Belgium) to wait out the consequences of an assassination gone terribly awry.

The younger of the two, Ray, is bored and angtsy with the whole place. He's got a guilty conscience, having been the bloke who totally screwed up the hit. Ken, older and more sanguine about the whole matter, is the total opposite. He's enjoying the sights and quiet cadence of the city, seeing it as a brief respite from what he knows is a powder keg about to blow up in both their faces.

Without giving away key plot points (all brilliantly revealed as the beginning of the end begins to play out toward its tragic conclusion), all I can say is WOW! Though I have never been a huge Colin Farrell fan, I found the actor to be an absolute revelation. The man can actually act, excellently conveying Ray's guilty conscience with a manic, twitchy angst that practically sets the screen on fire. When Ray's mistake is finally revealed in all its heartbreaking glory, Farrell manages to portray Ray's guilt and attempt at redemption in a scene that awes as well as chills the viewer. This is definitely an Oscar caliber performance, and one would hope the actor will continue to make such smart choices in future roles. The fact that Farrell gets to use his actual Irish accent is definitely a plus for the character. His Ray is a charming, annoying, childish, totally screwed up nut about to crack.

Gleeson, too, is equally convincing in his quiet, calm portrayal. His Ken, world weary and tried of the whole business of death, nevertheless knows he's got to pull back his shoulders and soldier on--even if it means he has to face the bad end of a gun himself from mob boss, Harry (an excellent Ralph Feinnes channeling an evil more vicious than even Lord Voldemort). Harry's riff on the Uzi he is offered by a gun supplier is hilarious, as is Ray's in run with a racist dwarf, among others as he ambles through Bruges seeking a solace neither drink nor drugs, or even a pretty girl, can offer.

The end for these three men is tragic, but totally fitting. I thoroughly enjoyed In Bruges and watched it several times just to soak in the early subtle clues leading up to Ray's mental meltdown. I admit that I had to watch the film with English subtitles on as I couldn't understand the actor's thick accents, but that wasn't any distraction or detriment.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 26, 2008
Two hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are on a sort of makeshift holiday in Bruges, Belgium after a hit gone wrong. While awaiting word from their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), Ken is interested in sightseeing and the history of the place, while Ray couldn't be more unimpressed and can't wait to escape.

After hearing so many wonderful things about this film I was absolutely prepared to be let down. Movies rarely live up to the hype for me, but I am happy to say this one did and then some.

In Bruges had me laughing out loud, hard and repeatedly, as the political incorrectness and the way Ray and Ken play off each other is hilarious. It had me sobbing big ugly girly tears as the emotion that pours from Ray, his guilt, his sadness, is absolutely palpable and heartbreaking. This movie had me gasping at the violence, on the edge of my seat and on an emotional roller coaster from one minute to the next. It was great.

The performances are grand by all three main characters and the supporting cast lends equally wonderful and interesting performances. I found this to be a multi-dimensional and complex film filled with irony, humor, action and sadness. I was really stunned at the power behind Colin Farrell's performance. He goes from a sort of spazzy, funny, slightly inept and combustible sidekick to a sensitive, deeply tortured soul in about 2 seconds and every facet of his character is believable and brilliant.

In Bruges is one of those quotable films with a billion awesome one-liners and moments. This is easily one of my favorite movies this year and definitely upon my list of all time favorites. I loved every fricken minute of it.

5+ stars

Cherise Everhard, August 2008
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2008
Much like a comedian, "In Bruges" is a film that uses humor to mask pain. It tells jokes and we laugh at them, but it's by no means a comedy; the story is deadly serious and at times downright shocking, and we're ultimately left in limbo about what we should and shouldn't find funny. This is actually one of the film's greatest strengths, simply because life itself is often hilarious in the face of tragedy. Writer and director Martin McDonagh seemed to know that all too well, which is good because it made for a unique and surprisingly engaging film. But be aware that not everyone will be this receptive: the subject matter is anything but light; most of the characters inhabit that massive gray area between decency and amorality; the ending is appropriate but definitely unconventional, leaving us unsure as to whether or not everyone got what they deserved.

The film opens with two Irish hitmen--Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson)--arriving in Bruges, a Belgian city that's known for being the most preserved medieval village in all of Europe. They were sent there after a job in England went horribly wrong. I won't say what happened, but I will say that Ray is now an emotional wreck, unable to forgive himself for what he has done. Anyway, both men are told to wait in Bruges until further notice. In the meantime, they might as well enjoy a little sightseeing, and indeed, Bruges is a beautiful, picturesque place. While Ken is more than willing to take everything in, Ray behaves like an immature teenager, shooting his mouth off about how awful Bruges is. He even gets into hot water with tourists, especially the American ones--it seems he's still bitter over the Vietnam War and the murder of John Lennon.

But it's much more likely that the past few days have taken their toll on him, with the incident in England weighing heavily on him. His only outlet is beer, cocaine, and Chloë (Clémence Poésy), a young woman working with a film crew. They share a fascinating if odd relationship, him being a hitman on the brink of suicide, her being a drug dealer and occasional robber. It's through her that Ray meets Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), a dwarf acting in the film being shot in Bruges. They, too, share an interesting relationship, not only because both are pent up fountains of anger, but also because of how they express that anger. Here's an example for Jimmy: there's a scene in which he's high on cocaine, ranting about how there will eventually be a race war between the blacks and the whites, and he feels that every ethnicity from the Vietnamese to the Pakistanis will side with the blacks. "What about black midgets and white midgets?" Ray asks. "Yes!" Jimmy emphatically responds. "Now there's a movie!" chuckles Ray, who quickly notices how offensive Ken is finding this conversation.

After a few days, Ken in finally contacted by Harry (Ralph Fiennes), who gives specific instructions that I won't reveal. I will say Harry is probably the film's only evil character, despite the fact that he has strict principles about who and who not to kill. He apparently first saw Bruges when he was only seven years old, and he loved it so much that he wanted both Ken and Ray to experience it. Bruges is like a city in a fairy tale, Harry says, and woe to those who don't feel the same way--one gets the sense that, in his eyes, disliking Bruges is akin to disliking the air we breathe. As irrational as this line of thinking is, Ken goes along with everything Harry says and always obeys. But then the next hit is ordered, and at that point, Ken reconsiders the life he leads and why he leads it. This, in turn, forces Harry to come back to Bruges.

All this paves the way for the final sequences, which are cleverly written to say the least. They serve as brutal counterparts to many earlier scenes, many of which have Ray and Ken discussing the existence of heaven, hell, and purgatory. They also wonder what it means to be a truly good person; Ken feels that he's generally a nice guy, yet he's well aware that he has killed people. He also asserts that, with one exception, his victims were all bad people who deserved to be killed. This begs the question: Where is the line drawn, since justified murder is still murder? Ken and Ray grapple with this, knowing perfectly well that their feelings could mean the difference between life and death.

There's a scene that sees both men in the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which displays a fragment of cloth said to have been soaked with the blood of Jesus Christ. Ken wants to see this cloth while Ray is desperate to leave, and that's an interesting duality since both men are sinners and unsure about what the hereafter has in store for them. Ray believes that hell is an eternity in Bruges, which is the only reason why he doesn't want to die there. Ken eventually believes that his purpose is to send Ray off to find his own purpose. Both have a lot to pay for. Whether or not they actually do pay, I'm not sure; much like the film's overall sense of humor, the ending of "In Bruges" is ambivalent, leaving us in a thick fog. But at the very least, it's a lovely, almost magical fog, much like the one shrouding Bruges every evening.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2008
I have to come down on the side of those who love this movie. Yes, there is violence, there is racism, there is drug use, and there is LANGUAGE, but honestly, these guys are not Smurfs. They're hired killers for cryin' out loud.

Two assassins are hiding out in Bruges on the orders of of their boss. They've just killed a priest and quite by accident have also killed a young boy in prayer. That scene is brief and shocking, but is 100% required for the rest of the movie to make sense. So they're hiding in Bruges, waiting for the boss to call. And they start to wonder, why Bruges? The answer is surprising on a couple of levels and is typical of what makes this movie different from the rest.

The older assassin is able to spend his time savoring Bruges and coming to love it. The younger one never will and seems to enjoy finding new ways to insult the medieval town.

And then the call comes and then the boss comes and all hell breaks loose. But even then, the movie has style and a humanity that sets it apart from the rest. The ending can be described in one word - Fellini. Except it's completely understandable.

As I said, I really liked this film. The language was appropriate to the characters, the violence was necessary for the story, and the comedy was dark and funny. But do keep in mind that it is British and British comedy is not for everyone. Fortunately, I was reared on it.
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36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2008
Another delightful little British black gangster comedy. Think of: Sexy Biest (w Ben KIngsley). Snatch (w Brad Pitt, Benicio dT ...). Layer Cake (w Daniel Craig). These guys have figured it out. Usually high class actors (here R.Fiennes, who is much more convincing as a bad guy than otherwise, and the quite capable Colin F., who had been a bit overrated for a while, but he really is quite talented).
A basically simple plot (a hit man has screwed up, causing collateral damage; the boss needs to remove him, orders the partner to get it done, which turns out a problem...) runs into obstacles because the protagonists develop unexpected attitudes. Slapstick with guns.
(Disclaimer: let me add that the headline is not my opinion, but a quote from Colin Farrell's character Ray, who thinks that Bruges is a s-hole; I fully disagree with that crass opinion, Bruges is as nice a place as you are likely to find in the whole of Belgium. On Tottenham I am not an expert.)
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2008
It's hard to believe, but it's been 14 years since Pulp Fiction was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. So what can we glean from this little factoid? What hath Tarantino wrought? Well, for one thing, the genre tag "hit man comedy" has now officially entered the cinematic lexicon. And, by the looks of things, (love it or loathe it) it is here to stay.

The latest example is a film that reportedly, er, knocked `em dead at the 2008 Sundance festival-Martin McDonagh's In Bruges. A pair of Irish hit men, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) have botched a job in London and are exiled to the Belgian city of Bruges, where they are ordered to lay low and await judgment from their piqued Dublin employer (Ray Fiennes).

Ken is enamored by the "fairy tale" ambience of Bruges, with its intricate canals and well-preserved medieval architecture, and decides to go the tourist route. The ADD-afflicted Ray, on the other hand, fails to see the appeal of "old buildings" and would just as soon plant himself in front of a pint for the duration of his purgatory. Initially, Ken lures the reluctant Ray into joining him for sightseeing with the promise of some pub time afterwards. However, it quickly becomes evident that Ray lacks any kind of discernible social filter, displaying a general disregard for local mores and folkways. Ken decides that the best way to stay low profile would be to let Ray pass time as he wishes.

In order to avoid spoilers, I won't elaborate much more on what ensues, other than to say that Ray wanders off and finds himself a love interest and enjoys escapades like a coke binge with a "racist dwarf" while Ken finds himself thrust into a moral and ethical dilemma that fuels the dramatic turn of the film's final third. Toss some heaping tablespoons of raging Catholic guilt, existentialism 101 and winking Hieronymus Bosch references into the mix, and voila! (The Sundance crowd swoons...)

So what exactly has McDonagh cooked up here? Well, as much as I'd like to be able to tell you that it's "an original dish", I'd have to call it more of a "sampler plate" featuring a generous wedge of Quentin Tarantino and a few tidbits of Guy Ritchie, sprinkled with a taste of Brendan Behan. If you're a fan of dark (very dark) Irish humor, you'll likely get a few decent chuckles out of playwright McDonagh's brash and brassy dialog (and marvel at his creative use of the "f"-word as a noun, adverb, super verb and adjective). Unfortunately, the humor doesn't fold so well into the mix with the generous dollops of dramatic bathos and queasy violence. Also, some of the more decidedly un-PC jokes fall terribly flat.

That being said, there are some strong performances here, almost in spite of the film's uneven tone. Gleeson and Farrell vibe a Laurel and Hardy dynamic together that works very well; you almost expect the doughy, exasperated Gleeson to exclaim "Well, it's a fine mess you've gotten us into!" every time Farrell throws more gas on the fire with another one of his Tourette's-like outbursts. Farrell has not previously impressed me as a nuanced performer, but in this film he proves to be quite deft at navigating the tricky waters of black comedy (that unibrow sure comes in handy). Gleeson (a world-class actor) is superb as always. Fiennes, who seems to be channeling Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (by way of Michael Caine) goes way over the top with his archetypical caricature of a "hard" Cockney gangster, but he appears to be having a grand old time just the same.

I had an "OK" time on my little Belgian excursion with Ray and Ken; and the location filming does make for a great travelogue, as Bruges truly is a beautiful city-but In Bruges may not be the ideal cinematic getaway for all tastes. A guarded recommendation.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The undeniable charm of In Bruges lies in it's lead cast and the dynamite direction and script from Martin McDonagh; who weaves a tale of hitmen Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson). Ray is the rookie who recently made a horrible mistake during a hit, while Ken is the wily veteran who seeks to help the lad out any way they can. Under orders from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), they are holed up in Bruges; a small, tourist town in Belgium, which becomes quite a big factor as things develop and slowly spin out of control. If you've seen trailers or previews of In Bruges, you may think this is a straight out dark comedy. Well, while it certainly features it's share of comedic moments (mostly by Farrell), In Bruges is better described as being the well-paced and just plain refreshing gangster drama that deserves your attention. Farrell, Gleeson, and Fiennes are spectacular and magnetic, the dialogue is addictive, and the film's conclusion is just plain shattering. All in all, In Bruges more than deserves your attention, and even if you've never heard of the film and the description tickles your fancy, check this out.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008)

There comes a point in certain movies where you start to understand how all the seemingly disparate pieces of plot, character, and setting come together. In general, when you're dealing with a mystery/thriller, the best time for this to happen is as close to the final frame as possible. Think, for example, of the shock of revelation in the final two minutes of the best modern example, The Usual Suspects. The master of this sort of thing when it comes to stage productions is Martin McDonagh, whose The Pillowman may be the single finest play of the past thirty years. The interesting thing to note here is that when you're dealing with a mystery/thriller in formats other than the screen, the genre's best works often put that moment of revelation much earlier, as is the case in The Pillowman (or, in the world of the novel, Graham Greene's The End of the Affair). McDonagh, however, knows the difference between stage and screen. Which is kind of rare in and of itself.

In Bruges is a story about two hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who are instructed by their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), to take a couple of weeks off and go see the sights in Bruges, a medieval Belgian town. Young, impetuous Ray can't stand the place from the moment he steps off the train; older, easier-going Ken is enchanted by the architecture (though not so much the tourists), but in the back of his head, he's wondering why the boss sent them here, of all places; talking it over in the pub, the two come to the conclusion there's a job to be done here, and the boss just hasn't told them what it is yet.

That's about all I can tell you about the plot, for in true McDonagh style, mini-revelations start popping up pretty early on. You don't really need to focus on the plot, though, to have a lot of fun with this film, which despite being a pretty straight thriller is laced with all kinds of dark, absurd comedy. In fact, it sets itself up to be a character study of Ray, and so we expect in the back of our heads that, as with most character studies of this type, the plot is going to take a back seat to quirky characters anyway. (And this is one of those times when I catch another facet of the brilliance of a movie when I'm sitting here writing the review instead of while I was watching the flick.) That never really happens; the character-sketch aspects of this movie are very well-balanced with the plot aspects. We in the western film world are well-used to seeing basically plotless character sketches or plot-heavy films with cardboard cutouts in place of actual characters. Even when you do get a plot-heavy script that's got three-dimensional characters in it, it's still a plot-heavy script. McDonagh strikes a very fine balance here, and while his foot does slip occasionally, most of the time when you think this has devolved into a character sketch, you're wrong. McDonagh just hasn't thrown the right pieces at you yet for it to all make sense. (And despite what it may sound like, I'm certainly not saying these scenes can't simply be enjoyed for what they are; the drug-fueled party Farrell and Gleeson have with Jordan Prentice would be hysterical as its own separate short film, with no other context.)

In Bruges ended up on a lot of ten-best-of-2008 lists, and rightly so. Definitely worth looking into, and the sooner the better. **** ½
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 10, 2008
In 2002 we met this up-and-coming actor named Colin Farrell as he stole scenes from the very charismatic Tom Cruise in the sci-fi thriller `Minority Report' (I know that his big break came in 2000 with `Tigerland', but that film did not bring any kind of household name status). The following year Farrell showed up in a slew of box-office big names like `S.W.A.T.', `Daredevil' and `The Recruit', and he showed surprising depth of character development in the underrated and underseen `Phone Booth'. It was 2004 though, that was to bring him into the big leagues; sort of. In 2004, at least in the beginning of the year, he was on the top of everyone's Oscar predictions for he was starring in two very controversial and highly anticipated films. There was the independent `A Home at the End of the World' and the Oliver Stone epic `Alexander. Sadly, both films failed, and while Farrell showed some strength in `Alexander' (I loathed his turn in `A Home at the End of the World') it wasn't nearly enough strength to stand out come Oscar time. Since that fateful year it seems as if Farrell's star has faded.

This brings us to 2008; to be more exact, it brings us to a whole new Farrell.

I had all but given up on Farrell as being a serious actor and actually utilizing the talent I saw in `Phone Booth' when I happened to stumble onto a series of reviews for this little film. I had read raves calling this Farrell's finest performance to date and so the fact that it was a gangster film (of sorts) and took place in Europe (with accompanying accents) and co-starred Ralph Fiennes all factored into me deciding to give it a shot.

Let me just say this now; one of the best films of the year, easily.

`In Bruges' tells the story of two hitmen, Ken and Ray. Ken is older and wiser than Ray. He possesses a certain calmness that comes from confidence and a level of comfort. Ray is young and green, which leads way to fleeting spells of panic and uncertainty. After Ray botches a job (his first at that) the two of them are sent away to a small medieval town (Bruges) to hide out, lay low, until they receive further orders from their boss Harry. While in Bruges the two of them go through levels of self discovery that help shape them into the men they truly desire to be.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh has marvelously crafted a film that both exciting and intelligent. It never sacrifices either for the other. The film is never boring, for it is filled to the brim with action and charisma. Both lead actors (Farrell and Gleeson) compliment one another flawlessly by playing two opposite ends of the spectrum. Gleeson embodies Ken with this paternal warmth that helps add layers of humanity to this contract killer, especially as the film progresses and his true relationship with Ray is revealed. Farrell ditches the paternal warmth for wit and charisma. His portrayal of Ray is so real and natural. We believe his faux performance (Ray's performance is faux; Farrell's performance is genuine). We understand the mask that Ray puts up to hide his own insecurities, and as his past is revealed and his motives are unveiled we crumble for him; and this is only made possible by Farrell's undeniably natural performance. Not one word spoken, not one movement made, not one moment of this performance is sour.

Honestly, so far it's the best performance I've seen this year; by anyone.

`In Bruges' tackles with grace and a fair amount of bloodshed the subjects of loyalty, friendship, morals and ultimately; atonement. This is proof that genre films of this nature (the whole gangster, murder, hitman type genre) don't have to be riddled with plot holes and littered with poor acting. `In Bruges' is brilliantly written and expertly executed. It is not only thought provoking and haunting, but it is witty, charming and quotable (this film is filled to the brim with memorable lines). The acting is marvelous (look also to Ralph Fiennes who has a nasty turn as Harry, as well as Clemence Poesy who serves as Farrell's love interest Chloe) and McDonagh's direction is spot on perfection, taking in the serenity of the city without losing the intensity of the situation. This is a hit on every level that will satisfy any and every film enthusiast.
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