Martin McDonagh, 2008
I didn't have an official preconception of In Bruges because it was on my "optional" More Movies list. I can tell you, though, that I assumed from the title that it was a delightful romantic comedy.
Categorically, the concept of "moral questions debated among people who kill other people for a living" is both (1) asinine and (2) done to death. It has been the dumbest aspect of several excellent movies -- I'm thinking here first of Pulp Fiction and, arguably, of The Seven Samurai -- and of many really bad movies, such as the excruciating Analyze This. It was the theme of a mediocre television serial, The Sopranos, the popularity of which among the smart set was a searing indictment of how very, very bad mainstream television really is.
So here's the concept again in In Bruges -- yet the Film 4 indie-Euro look, feel, and production values save the day. In Bruges is darkly funny, darkly beautiful, and, in spite of its frequent outbursts of stark, unsentimental violence, it is witty and charming. Does this make it morally questionable? I dunno. Check with your spiritual counselor before viewing. My job is just to tell you whether I think you'd enjoy it.
The set-up is like so: we've got a dumb hit-man and a hit-man who seems like Buckminster freaking Fuller by comparison, although really he's just an average Joe. The dumb hit-man has accidentally shot a child bystander on his latest assignment, so the pair have been sent from London to Bruges to hide out while things blow over. The relatively smart hit-man is delighted to be in the exquisitely beautiful medieval city; the dumb one thinks Bruges is incredibly dull. This provides fertile grist for about a half hour of comedy, after which the plot thickens and darkens considerably. Hijinx throughout, of course.
In Bruges is beautifully acted throughout by top-notch performers like Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes. The photography, particularly the treatment of the Bruges cityscape, will make you want to book a flight to Belgium, stat. There is a surprising volume of jokes about Americans; I'm not sure if the intent is to mock my people or to pander to our market. A failure to get the North American accents right, though, is a surprising technical flaw in what is otherwise an extremely well-produced movie.
Department of Clever Clever Intertextuality: A secondary character is named "Chlöe Villette."
Prognosis: * * * 1/2 -- If you are the kind of person who can relax into a lighthearted highbrow comedy that features graphic depictions of people dying from multiple gunshot wounds and other moist forms of violence, you are likely to enjoy In Bruges! If you also have a fondness for medieval art and architecture, it'll be a hit for sure. No pun intended.