In Bruges is one of the most seriously misunderstood and underrated movies in recent memory. Other critics have blasted its misogynistic, racist and xenophobic undertones. What these critics fail to realize is that this is a movie about two Irish hitmen lying low in Bruges,Belgium after a job. The movie, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, carries hints of the Mr.McDonagh’s time in the theater. He reverses the eternal Hollywood axiom of “show don’t tell” and instead chooses to tell in highly stylized dialogue that is at times sinister, funny and oddly moving.
The humor in this movie always comes at someone’s expense and is frequently of the black variety. Well meaning people are often beaten, mocked or even shot. Nobody gets away safely from the verbal guns of Mr.McDonagh. While all of this might sound like criticism, it is actually praise. What critics have forgotten is that this is a movie about hitmen, people who have rejected traditional social mores and morality. Therefore, all the amorality, hedonism and nihilism exhibited by the movie’s protagonist Ray (Colin Farrell) is completely justified and refreshingly accurate. Ray’s partner is played with touching restraint Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson, in one of the movie’s cleverer conceits, is a far better hitman than Ray yet possesses a far larger conscience and much more integrity.
Their boss, Harry, is Ralph Fiennes doing what Ralph Fiennes does best, playing a pyschopath. Not to reveal too much of the plot but there is a fair amount of violence that is again justified since this is a movie about hitmen. It is very easy to be outraged by In Bruges and it is much harder to see the streak of old fashioned Catholic morality running beneath the surface, appearing only at the movies bloody end. I highly recommend In Bruges just for spectacle of Colin Farrell not coasting and riffing with the dexterity of stand up comedian. McDonagh is most certainly not much of a visual stylist and the soundtrack is mildly above average. Still, In Bruges is a very good film, not a classic but a dialogue heavy punch to the gut that definitely deserves a viewing or two.