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The Mass Media

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An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Not Your Typical Vacation

“In Bruges” isn’t quite a buddy film, yet Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson work great opposite each other, and their interactions and quick-witted retorts are one of the high points in this dark comedy.

The story follows a pair of mismatched Irish hitmen, Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Gleeson), who find themselves in one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in Europe after a hit on a priest turns out horribly wrong.

Ray has a bit of an “accident” and must overcome his inner torment over inadvertently killing a child, all while cooling off in Bruges, one of Belgium’s most scenic cities. Ken, meanwhile, finds the city to be intriguing and takes to seeing all the local sites, while Ray is miserable and openly wonders if hell is just an eternity spent in Bruges.

That all changes when Ray becomes smitten with Chloe (Clémence Poésy) and begins to find new ways to entertain himself while Ken takes in the local landmarks and keeps up the appearance of being a tourist to the Flemish city. There are also some memorable encounters with an American dwarf actor and a few prostitutes.

The film is vulgar and perverse, which is part of what makes it so fantastic. Writer/director Martin McDonagh makes his feature film debut after making a name for himself as a playwright with four Tony Award-nominated plays, including 2003’s “The Pillowman.” Martin doesn’t shy away from making politically incorrect-and occasionally outright offensive-jokes, or using language that would make Michael Richards shudder.

Martin has also deftly integrated the story with its setting. Through exquisite camera work, Martin places the audience within the cramped confines of Bruges. The city itself becomes a character of sorts, its gothic architecture, ubiquitous canals, and narrow cobble stoned streets affecting the minds of Ray and Ken as they try to lay low while awaiting instructions from their maniacal boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes).

Bruges turns out to be less the hell that Ray imagines, and more like purgatory. Waiting seems endless as Ray and Ken wait for their souls to be purified for the mortal sins they committed, undergoing the temporal punishment they must endure.

Farrell does a good job of playing the not-so-bright, childlike partner to Gleeson’s older, father-like Ken. Yet Gleeson shines a bit brighter, and the addition of Fiennes (best known to American audiences as Lord Voldemort form the “Harry Potter” films) provides a great antagonist to the story.

The film takes a darker turn when Fiennes’ Harry comes to bump off Ray. The final act of the film is much more inline with some of McDonagh’s darker plays that have gained so much praise on stage. The ending, unfortunately, is not totally satisfying. While the first two acts shifted fluidly between the comedic and the dramatic, the final act may be a little too full of plot twists and “shocking” moments for its own good. Perhaps this is evidence of McDonagh’s unfamiliarity with filmmaking, but if his first film is this good then he has a promising career ahead of him.