Friday, December 16, 2011

Movie – In Bruges (2008)

In Bruges has multiple great performances in it, including the best performance I’ve seen from Colin Farrell.  It won him the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical over his co-star Brendan Gleeson.  I wouldn’t exactly call this movie a comedy, but it does contain quite a bit of humor within a crime drama plot.  The result is a very good movie.  It is number 4 on my list of the best non-traditional Christmas movies.

You may be wondering what the title even means.  Well, Bruges is a tourist destination town.  The opening lines of the film (from Farrell’s character) explain it:  “After I killed him, I dropped the gun in the Thames, washed the residue off me hands in the bathroom of a Burger King, and walked home to await instructions. Shortly thereafter the instructions came through – ‘Get the f*ck out of London, you dumb f*cks. Get to Bruges.’  I didn't even know where Bruges f*cking was.  [pause]  It's in Belgium.”

Farrell plays Ray, a junior hitman who badly messed up his first job and had to be sent away by his boss for a while.  The other three key people in the movie are played by Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Clemence Poesy.  For the Harry Potter fans those are Mad Eye Moody, Voldemort, and Coeur de la Fleur.  In this movie Gleeson plays Ken, the veteran hitman who has been sent to Bruges with Ray, Fiennes is their boss, and Poesy is a local woman that Ray meets.

The movie could be summed up very quickly:  two hit men have been sent to this little tourist town to lie low after a job went bad.  One is having a good time and the other is going nuts with boredom.  Things happen.

There is a lot more to it than just that, though.  Ray is an adult, but he acts like a child.  He can’t figure out why Ken wants to go see all the old buildings and things in the town.  He doesn’t care about history because “it’s things that already happened.”  When Ken asks him if he wants to go up in a tower, Ray asks him what’s up there.  Ken tells him it’s to see the view.  Ray asks him why he’d want to go to the top of a tower to see the view of where they are standing when they can already see it from where they are.  Ray thinks Bruges is a “shithole” and wants to get out as soon as he can.  He and Ken have to wait for their boss to call, though.

Making matters worse, it is near Christmas and all the hotels are booked solid.  Ray and Ken have to share one small room.  When Ray finds out the room has been booked for two weeks, he nearly goes crazy.  He tries to get Ken to go out to pubs with him.  Ken tells him that their orders are to remain in the room at night, not go anywhere, and not get involved in anything.  There’s a great shot of Farrell’s face as we see his character very obviously thinking of a way to trick Ken into letting him go out.  He finally asks Ken if they can go look at some “old stuff”.  Ken agrees.

They wander about the town, seeing all the Christmas decorations and pretty lights.  While out that evening Ray sees a movie being filmed and it has a dwarf in it.  Ray is about as excited as a little child to see this and there’s no way Ken can tear him away to go back to the room.  The only thing that distracts Ray is when he sees Chloe (Poesy) working on the film crew.  He flirts with her and sets up a date for the next night.

Unfortunately, their boss called while they were out and he left a very pissed off message with the woman who owns the place where they are staying.  She took it down verbatim and every other word is a swear word.  It’s funny when Ken and Ray are reading it because Ray comments on how foul their boss’ language is when his is just as bad.

An example – when Ken asks Ray how his date went, Ray responds, “My date involved two instances of extreme violence, one instance of her hand on my cock and my finger up her thing which lasted all too briefly - and then I was away - , one instance of me stealing five grams of very high-quality cocaine and one instance of me blinding a poofy little skinhead: so all in all... my evening pretty much balanced out, fine.”  Doesn’t sound like he’s keeping a very low profile, does it?

Things first take a turn for the serious when we find out what happened on the job that went bad.  Even though Ray talks a good game, he has been messed up some by what happened.  Things get even more serious when the boss (Fiennes) calls Ken and finally lets him know the real reason for their trip to Bruges.  Ultimately, their boss comes to Bruges himself.

The last lines in the film are terrific and really do a great job of summing up what the movie has been about and the attitude of the character speaking them.

I’ve seen some movies that tried to combine humor and drama that failed, but this movie manages to make it work.  The humor pops up throughout the movie.  Even when two men are trying to kill each other, they have an exchange where they are trying to agree to the “rules” and one is asking the other for directions like they were going to meet at a pub for a drink or something.  (It’s a lot funnier than that description makes it sound.  To give you the verbatim dialogue would include spoilers, though.)

The movie earns its R rating.  If you are greatly offended by bad language then you will want to avoid this movie.  The filmmakers even acknowledge how much swearing there is in an extra on the DVD.  After you are done with the movie, make sure to watch the “F**cking Bruges” feature.  It is a two minute synopsis of every bad word or gesture in the movie.  It’s pretty funny.

In addition, like many British films from the George W. Bush era, this movie goes out of its way to cut down Americans.  One of these sequences leads to a funny moment late in the movie, though - a comeuppance of sorts for a main character.

Finally, this is a movie about hitmen; you do see violence and some death onscreen.  None of it is too graphic, though.  The worst bit of violence is seen from a distance, although you know what it is that has happened.

If you do not have a problem with these three things, or if you are willing to accept them if a movie is good, then I highly recommend this movie.  It is a very entertaining film.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

[Note – you can read about the best non-traditional Christmas movies at this link.]

           DVD                      Blu-ray                 Instant Video


  1. Hilarious film, McDonagh is a hero since I was told the story of how drunkenly took a swing at Sean Connery before bragging about picking a fight with James Bond.

    Love the film, great review. It's referrals like this that hopefully turn people towards movies they missed due to their scale on theatrical release.

  2. @John Baxter - "It's referrals like this that hopefully turn people towards movies they missed due to their scale on theatrical release."

    Thank you. You hit upon my primary reason for doing this blog. It's not really to review the new movies as they come out, although I will do that now and then; it's to let people know about good movies they might not otherwise hear about. I was even going to name my blog "Movies You Might Have Missed", but of course someone else had already used that name.

  3. Good review Chip, this has a stellar cast so I may check it out. Surprisingly enough I had not even heard of it till now!

  4. @Matt - Thanks. Like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, In Bruges also did not earn much of anything at the domestic box office. I never heard of it until it came to DVD.