Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is a stone-cold cult classic. A modest hit when it was first released in 2008 ($33 million globally from a $15 budget), the black comedy hits the mark on all levels. The dark humour is funny and the dramatic beats are well honed and poignant.
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are Ray and Ken, two Irish hitmen keeping a low profile in Bruges after Ray accidentally kills a young boy when a hit goes wrong. They’re waiting to hear from their hard-nosed boss Harry (a crackling Ralph Fiennes), who plays a trigger happy gangster with a temperamental personality. However, the pair can’t seem to stay out of trouble and the plot turns and zigzags in surprising ways before packing a punch in an emotional finale.
McDonagh’s screenplay delivers in every way – the whole thing is incredibly well structured and the dialogue zings with sizzling one-liners and foulmouth rants. This entertains though it also adds a lot of wonderful characterisation to the whole thing. In lesser hands, this might have felt like a low-rent Tarantino rip-off, but playwright McDonagh is a true wordsmith, offering-up weighty themes to support the the lighter elements. In Bruges is all about faith, responsibility, brotherhood and redemption – and McDonagh is able to get this across without being heavy-handed. That’s wonderful writing.
Another thing that helps to make In Bruges so memorable is the casting. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson have never been better than they have been in McDonagh’s film. Farrell fully gets across Ray’s guile and naivety without ever appearing as merely stupid. If Farrell wasn’t such a good actor, then Ray could have been lurking in the same neighbourhood as Father Ted’s Dougal, but instead, Farrell enables him to be a fully rounded character – he’s just a man not cut-out for being a hired killer. Brendan Gleeson is a performer who has alway been able to get across great strength and honest emotional frailty. Ken is a mentor to Ray, a father figure and the character beats between them are the film’s true heart.
Sometimes when all the elements align a great movie exists because of the talent involved. In Bruges is brilliant because it was written and directed by Martin McDonagh and it’s brilliant because it stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Without any one of those elements it might have been just good rather than brilliant.
The Second Sight blu-ray release of In Bruges comes loaded with new interviews from much of the film’s behind the scenes talent and old interviews with the cast. The disc also features Six Shooter, Martin McDonagh’s Oscar Winning Short Film. Another great package from Second Sight.