Leave the Gun, Take the Chocolates (Film Review: “In Bruges”)

A modern classic, In Bruges is a darkly comic tale of displaced assassins . . . its a love story, really.

SnapShot Plot

Remember the good ‘ole days when the little country of Belgium was famous for its chocolates, beer and french fries but never as a haven for terrorists? I don’t know about you but during this holiday season, I’m waxing nostalgic about simpler times and easier ethical narratives taxing my moral compass. As if in answer to a prayer, we can get it all in a fan favorite which – if you haven’t seen it – may just become a new holiday movie tradition in your household . . . that is, if you don’t mind the cursing, the guns and all that blood.

In Bruges is the story of two Irish hit men, Ken and Ray (brilliantly played by Brendon Gleeson and Colin Farrell) who arrive in the medieval town of Bruges during the holidays to lay low for two weeks, on the order of their gangster boss, Harry (in a deliciously sociopath turn by Ralph Fiennes.) It seems something went terribly wrong with the last hit, something that’s eating away at Ray’s conscience. Yes, these are hit men with consciences, well, sort of. Their instructions are to hole up in a quaint little B&B and await Harry’s call, presumably with orders for their next job.

While Ken (the Gleeson character) approaches the hiatus as a wonderful opportunity to absorb some local culture and simply be a tourist, Ray (the Farrell character) sees the time as some kind of prison sentence and Bruges as a dull little Purgatory with picturesque cobblestone streets. The pair couldn’t be more mismatched: Ken the older, wiser and more philosophical and Ray the high-strung, errant schoolboy who wears his emotions on his sleeve. Their rapport is at once hilarious and soulful, with witty dialogue so perfectly timed, you’ll find yourself literally leaning in to catch it all through the Irish accents. But at the center of their relationship is a real bond which seems to surprise even them, and one which will be tested with the arrival of Harry on the scene to straighten things out.



Parting Shot

In Bruges is written and directed by Martin McDonagh, arguably one of the leading masters of black comedy in film but perhaps better known for his many plays, including The Beauty Queen of Leenane. There are many reasons this little gangster film remains on many all-time favorite lists, and from dead-on performances by the two leads and Ralph Fiennes to the crackling, ironic, and lyrically poetic script, its no surprise McDonagh snatched a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2009 and Colin Farrell picked up the Golden Globe for Best Actor in the same year.

Shot on location in Bruges, the film – like such Hitchcock masterpieces as The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest – is almost a travelogue in and of itself, which makes it all the more delightful to watch. I suppose we can call it an early example of the bromance genre, too, but my final take-away is that In Bruges is proof positive that even killers have hearts.

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YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6-Gpasi79c

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