IN BRUGES no doubt goosed an extra boost of fresh tourism to that age-old Belgian gem, lovingly showcased in this superior 2008 black comedy crime fable, written & directed by Martin McDonagh. His profanely witty, Oscar-nominated screenplay blessed three great actors with some of their richest characters and graced us with some of their best-ever work.
New to his unique profession, hit man ‘Ray’ (Colin Farrell) tragically bollixes his first job, and is sent to the title town to await orders. Trying to mind him is his experienced mentor ‘Ken’ (Brendan Gleeson). Though fond of each other, they’re temperamental opposites, and they bicker as they’re bored buggered (Ray) and gobsmack enchanted (Ken) by the tempered mood and relaxing sights of the medieval neighborhoods. While admiring Ken swoons over the churches, cobblestones and canals, jittery Ray parties with ‘Chloë’ (Clémence Poésy), a beguiling local tourist scammer and drug dealer, and an ill-tempered dwarf named ‘Jimmy’ (Jordan Prentice), an American actor on location. Storming into the barmy mix comes the guys brassed-off boss, ‘Harry’ (Ralph Fiennes), a walking time bomb of barely contained fury.
The Grand Gleeson inhabits Ken as amiably comfortable with being resolved to his life (ending other lives), a big bear who could obviously be dangerous but also possesses curiosity and the innate sense of civility to not make needless waves. He even holds a redemptive measure of gallantry. Farrell exudes flashpoint nerve and a clumsy honesty, taking Ray into some low-yield zones that more suave heroes/actors would not risk— anguish, mortification, self-loathing, bafflement and clownishness. Fiennes is cutting, perpetually fuming, yet also bound to uphold an honor code to the point of annihilation. Their invisible technique is honed lock-smooth: hilarious, scary and touching. With the fine work from Poésy and Prentice, the engrossing scenery and McDonagh’s assured writing and pacing, it stands out as a tart treat from start to fade.
Featuring Thekla Reuten, Jérémie Renier, Zeljko Ivanek, Anna Madeley and in a cameo as the unlucky priest, Ciarán Hinds. Carter Burwell’s pensive score undercoats the mixture of odd situation and genteel setting with a just-right blend of distanced unreality and interior melancholy. Made for $15,000,000, the consistent wit, layered character depth, vivid bursts of action and surprising wellspring of affection grossed $34,500,000.
Oi, lest you fancy we’re a damp squid berk, we note that the fast-forward word for copulation and its derivatives are said 126 times in this 107-minute film, an average of 1.18 ‘fucks’ per minute. That’s almost Wilt Chamberlain territory.