Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody! When I was planning out my posting schedule for the week, it seemed pretty darn appropriate to have this review go up today. Because it’s arguably the most important day of The Begorrathon! Have you guys heard this? Co-hosted by The Fluff Is Raging and 746 Books, this blogathon is dedicated to all things Ireland. Books, TV, movies, music—anything dealing with Irish culture is fair game. Naturally, I opted for a film review. This actually worked out perfectly because it allowed me to watch one that’s been on my list for some time: In Bruges. While it may not be set in Ireland, it does star two excellent Irish actors, giving it a distinctly Irish flavor. So was the luck of the Irish with me on this choice? Let’s talk about it.
In Bruges (2008)
Synopsis: “Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hitman Ray and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place in the world Ray wants to be.” –www.imdb.com
What I liked:
- Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hitmen Ray and Ken. I’ve seen these two guys in a lot, and I’ve always thought highly of them (and, yes, I know Farrell’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like him). Together, they are wonderful. Ray, the impulsive, energetic newbie is the perfect foil for older, wiser, calmer pro Ken. Their banter is lively, funny, and pivotal to getting you attached to the characters.
- Ralph Fiennes as crime boss Harry. Seriously, is there anything Fiennes can’t do? His range is out of control. Going from seeing him as a refined hotel manager in The Grand Budapest Hotel to seeing him as this foul-mouthed, hot-headed crime boss has been wonderful. Even in this role, Fiennes manages to be a delight.
- The intriguing story. It’s a really unique take on the hitman genre—funny and much more buddy-focused than you’d expect, but also pretty surreal. The characters themselves frequently reference Bruges as a sort of fairytale place, and while I don’t know if I’d call it that, I’d definitely say there are fairytale elements in it—dramatic deaths, love, a feeling of fate. Heck, there’s even a sassy dwarf thrown in for good measure. It’s a mishmash of stuff, yet it somehow works.
- The dark humor. I can see how this is from the same guy (Martin McDonagh) who made Seven Psychopaths (which I actually think I prefer to this). A lot of these characters have very twisted thoughts and/or do some pretty messed up things, yet the film manages to make a lot of that weirdly funny. It doesn’t always come off that way—nor should it since some of these things are very, very heavy—but when it does aim for dark comedy, it hits the mark.
- All the purgatory stuff. There’s a lot of talk of that and the idea of I guess what you’d call “divine punishment” in this film, which I found extremely interesting. I’m a sucker for Dante’s Inferno, and this film made me think of that, especially toward the end. It takes a strange turn, but in an odd way, it’s kind of perfect.
What I didn’t like:
- It wasn’t what I expected. Like, at all. I expected a film with a bit more action, a bit more humor. This film moves at a much slower pace and is much more dramatic than I had realized. I think going in with an entirely different idea of what it was threw me off. It also didn’t help that…
- Tonally, it’s kind of all over the place. The end of the film is so different from the first three-fourths or so that it almost seems like another film entirely. This could’ve worked, I think, with more of an effort to weave in some of the bigger themes at play and/or adjust the humor/drama in certain spots, but as it stands…meh.
- Ultimately, it’s sort of a “so what’s the point” type movie. It clearly has big ideas, and it addresses some of those ideas in very interesting ways. But I don’t think it quite gets to the meat of those ideas, and by the end the film just feels like a lot of talk and senseless violence. Given some of the themes, that could very well be what the director is going for, but that doesn’t cut it for me. It feels a bit like a character study gone awry.
To Sum It Up: Honestly, this was a hard one to talk about. I think what I expected In Bruges to be and what it actually is are such separate entities that I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s an intriguing, unique film with stellar performances and a sharp script, so I should like it. And I do think I like it more than I dislike it, but only just. It’s one of those that I think I’d like to give another shot someday, you know? If you’re looking for an offbeat hitman movie, this one’s worth a shot…but Léon: The Professional is much more my cup of tea. 😉
My Grade: B-
Thanks so much for inviting me to join the fun, Niall! I’m glad I was finally able to get to this one—even if it wasn’t totally my thing. Hoping to get to one more Irish film before the month is out, so we shall see. Happy St. Paddy’s again, everyone! Erin go Bragh and all that jazz! Go have a green beer on me!
…I’m not actually paying for that beer. But you should drink it anyway. 😉