Saturday, May 17, 2008
He Said: IN BRUGES
In Bruges is beautiful and brilliant, and one of the only films in the first half of 2008 to truly strive for adjectives like that.
Written and directed by playwright Martin McDonagh, the film is a bizarre travelscape blended with a hard-boiled crime thriller, peppered with vulgar wit and topped off with a surprising philosophical cherry. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson play Ray and Ken, two Irish hitmen on a forced sabbatical in the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges, a major tourist attraction and the bane of a hitman's existence. Waiting for their mysterious boss to call them back into action, the two men find themselves at very different crossroads. For Ray, young, cynical, and tormented by the skeletons in his closet, it is a trap from which he cannot escape. For Ken, much older and wiser about the world, it is a chance to escape from his hellish job (read: life) for as long as he is permitted.
A simple plot summary makes In Bruges sound interesting, if a little strange. But nothing is as simple as it seems in this film, which plays like a comic tragedy written by an acid-tripping poet. There are brutal murders, dirty jokes, sweet romances, and drunken romps with dwarfs and prostitutes. If it sounds like too much, that's because words cannot describe the rhythm by which In Bruges hits its stride, and the nimble brilliance with which writer/director McDonagh walks such a tonal high-wire.
Everything about the film is skewed about 45 degrees, and the screenplay doesn't so much break convention as it does riddle convention with bullets. Here is a film that is shockingly bloody, bitingly hilarious, and amazingly, more tender and introspective than one could ever imagine. Sure, it is incredibly violent...sure, it is one of the most gleefully profane films ever to be released...and sure, it packs its share of bawdy humor. But at its core, In Bruges is about desperate and depressed men in a desperate and depressed business. And for all its sly humor and irrepressible cynicism, its sense of hope is what leaves the greatest impression. In Bruges is, in essence, a film about hopeless men who find the will to live.