A romantic stroll or some flavoured beer perhaps? Wile away your time on the canal, gazing at Gothic architecture and cobbled streets. You can do all of the above in Bruges, Belgium; where hit-men Ray (Colin Farell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) find themselves, after their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), orders them to lie low in the popular tourist destination.
Ray is tortured by recent bloody events in London and arrives in town telling everyone who will listen that Bruges is the worst little corner of the planet—using language that is far from repeatable here. Ken, however, as the older figure, appreciates the culture around him, finding the place a soothing respite from their troubles, as well as an opportunity to take in beautiful churches and medieval galleries. Yes folks, we have a double act made in Ireland. We have the coarse and deeply politically incorrect character played by Farrell and the fatherly Gleeson who tries to keep him out of trouble; both actors enjoying the juicy and hilarious dialogue from writer/director Martin McDonagh.
The longer they wait for instructions from the cockney-lizard like Harry (with Fiennes borrowing a little from Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast), the more sinister events become and the more Ray becomes befuddled, his thoughts a mixture of recrimination and loneliness. Such is the lot of the 21st Century hit man (see: Gross Pointe Blank and The Matador). In common with those movies, In Bruges balances pitch-black humour with emotionally charged moments.
This is, however, a comedy romp destined for cult status driven by Ray’s encounters with super-sized American tourists, medieval art, Dutch prostitutes, a dwarf actor (Jordan Prentice), and potential romance with the charming Chloë (Cléménce Poésy). Farrell’s performance is well judged, with some devilment from the man himself, one imagines. This movie goes to some dark places but only within its own terms and from the mouths of its own strangely endearing assassins. Bruges itself is a character of course, if you’ve visited before you’ll enjoy seeing it again; if you haven’t yet the ‘Venice of the North’ may well tempt you in. Despite the dwarf drug abuse and profanity, the local tourist board will be delighted.