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.
+ 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...
+ 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.
- 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.
- 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.