February 13, 2008

REVIEW: In Bruges (B)

Background: Accomplished British playwright Martin McDonagh won an Oscar in 2004 for his short film Six Shooter, which (from what I've heard) was loosely adapted into the feature-length In Bruges, also written and directed by McDonagh. Starring the principal of the short, Brendan Gleeson (Beowulf, Harry Potter...), as well as Colin Farrell (Cassandra's Dream) and Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter..., The Constant Gardener), In Bruges was a hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival and was filmed entirely on location in Belgium.

Synopsis: Ken (Gleeson) and Ray (Farrell) are hit men from Dublin sent to lay low in Bruges, Belgium, because Ray's first job went awry. Ignorant as to why they are specifically in Bruges, the hyperbored Ray and the endearing Ken spend a few days sightseeing and cavorting with an attractive drug dealer, a dwarf, and some prostitutes - but mostly they just banter back and forth, and some dramatic scenes involving Ray's guilt are tossed into the mix. When Ken finally receives a call from their boss, Harry (Fiennes), he's forced to make a decision he hoped never to face. His choice brings Harry to fanciful Bruges for a drawn-out showdown between the three men.

I Loved:
+ The scene in which Ralph Fiennes meets Brendan Gleeson at the outdoor patio table in Bruges.
+ Colin Farrell, for the second time.
It makes you wonder why he considers roles like Phone Booth and Miami Vice. Stick with an accent and role that you can actually do well.
+ The enchanting city of Bruges. It was like a fairy tale...

I Liked:
+ The musical score by Carter Burwell (No Country for Old Men - was there even a score?). It fit well with the setting of Bruges and worked for the story.
+ The scene with the American tourists.
+ The often very funny dialogue between Gleeson and Farrell.

I Disliked:
- The ugliness of Jordan Prentice's character - what a jerk. Good acting, though.
- The occasional feeling that this would have made a better play than a movie.

I Hated:
- The contrived and predictable ending - everything was going really well with this movie until the penultimate minute.

Writing - 9
Acting - 10
Production - 9
Emotional Impact - 8
Music - 5
Significance - 2

Total: 43/50= 86% = B

Last Word: While it starts
out as a comedy, In Bruges eventually morphs into your standard crime thriller. This is a good thing, as there is only so much bickering and bantering you can take before you start to roll your eyes. The duo of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson is natural and quite charming until Fiennes rolls in and owns every scene he's in, most impressively in the one I mention above. Farrell especially nails the role of the neurotic, vulnerable rookie to Gleeson's seasoned, above-it-all veteran, and there are some hilarious lines throughout. Though there exists an almost troubling similarity to Farrell's character in Cassandra's Dream, it doesn't take anything away from In Bruges - in fact it fits better here anyway. However, while the acting is top-notch (and I didn't mention the great supporting performances), the story has a tendency to occasionally lag, even to the point where we feel as trapped as the characters. The most unfortunate piece of In Bruges - the bit that really got me down, was the ending. I know Martin McDonagh has this great reputation for storytelling, but that was really "Oh, come on!". It's as if he was out of his element in finishing the story on film, whereas on stage he could have found a better spot to cut it? The last bit of dialogue is nice, but it doesn't make up for the disappointing ending (after a great buildup) that precedes it.


  1. I'm not sure whether I want to see this one... It's a long and uninteresting story, but Bruges reminds me of my messed-up sister.

    Is it worth the theater money (plus parking uptown), or do I wait until DVD?

    And PS are you going to see the Oscar shorts at the Lagoon? I'm heading there tonight with Captain Crash.

  2. It's probably a great DVD candidate as there isn't much that's added from the theater experience for this one. If you're a Colin Farrell fan I highly recommend it. Or if you've been to Bruges. Otherwise it's nothing new.

    I'm considering the Oscar shorts. I don't know if I can make both, so I might try for the animated, though not tonight. Are you doing the LAMB write up for those? Every year I'm excited to see them but this year. No reason why. I'll probably want to see them after they're gone.

    By the way, I always stick with street parking in Uptown. The right side of Lagoon from Lunds on is usually open and free if you're willing to brave parallel parking on an icebank.

  3. Aha! You pressed the Soundtrack Geek alarm! I have a system in place to detect any combination of like, score, musical etc. Wouldn't it be cool if I got one of those laser beams in the sky like they had when they called Batman? Anyway, I'm going to work on that later.

    I'm happy for Carter Burwell. Granted, it's not a big movie, but he really needs a good score now. Here's hoping! Looking forward hearing that.

    As for the movie.. it's a meh I think. I don't exactly jumping out of my chair here. Even the title is boring...

    I concur with the DVD comments! But maybe it will be a TV moment instead.

  4. Ha, love the idea of your call to action. You are indeed the soundtrack hero.

    I don't even know anything about Carter Burwell, but the score is one of the better parts of In Bruges, along with the funny dialogue and acting by Farrell, Gleeson and Fiennes. I enjoyed it, but again, DVD is a great option for this one.

  5. I was in Brussels for like 12 days in October, and one of my day-trip options was Bruges. I chose antwerp instead. Which was awesome, but now I can't get all excited about this movie like I had visited the town. I am an idiot. I'll have to Netflix this one when it comes out.

    It's pretty amazing how Netflix has become an adverb in my lexicon... but I use it several times a week! Here's to those little red envelopes.

    P.S. I Netflixed 2 days in Paris on your recommendation/my love for Adam Goldberg, and I thought it was decent. I was also in Paris in October, so I enjoyed the scenery. The story was alright (and I know the whole dynamic of a new girlfriend and dealing with sexual history), and I liked the movie overall... but I just don't think it ended very well. I needed more closure. I know that was probably the "artistic" thing to do by not giving closure... but it just left me wondering why it was over so soon. Anyway, just my $.02.

  6. Maybe there will be a sequel called In Antwerp - then you'll be cool. But seriously you've been enough places that you can make that connection with pretty much any other movie.

    2 Days just "decent," eh? It was good, not great - the dialogue was a little unbelievable and the ending was maybe unexpected, but I thought it was better than the typical - well, I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen it. Hopefully Adam Goldberg on the subway was at least worth your time, Sow.

  7. When I say decent... it is pretty much my ambiguous way of not giving it a rating at all. I watched it over the course of 3 nights, so I probably didn't give it its due diligence. Overall, I am glad I watched it, and it was good movie.

  8. Well, I would've given it an A easily - and there are no easy As from me - but I do believe you knew that all ready.

    I liked the ending much more as well. Really came right out of left field when I wasn't expecting it. That was something that I really could embrace. I love the unexpectedness. When you see so much formula crap on a consistent basis, this was a wonderful surprise.

    I also liked (as you did) the part where Colin Farrell harassed the American tourists. Yes, he was mean but it was hilariously funny. Then when Brendan Gleeson walks right into the middle of it and tries to engage them in conversation - not knowing what just happened...

    The opening (Friday) night audience that I saw it with (back in March?)loved it to bits. They applauded during the closing credits.

    MUCH too early to say if it'll remain in my Top 10. But really hysterical, thought provoking, mysterious, great fun.

    Oh...your review was pretty good too.

  9. Thanks, Miranda. Certainly it belongs in the top-tier of '08 films so far, and based on what's followed, it hasn't fallen very far. I was disappointed with the end of the last shootout because it felt too convenient, but up until that point I agree that it was unique and pretty suspenseful.

    Here's to hoping Colin Farrell has found his niche again...


Related Posts with Thumbnails