This movie is like Sideways or The Trip, except about going on the lam. And there is a little person and a lot of blood.
So it’s not like either of those movies at all, actually, but I do love making a stretch of a comparison. Actually, though, the not-so-gentle bromances in all of them are very similar. There’s always a struggle for respect, a lady’s affection to win or be distracted by, and a secret to keep. It’s just a matter of balancing those things accordingly. In the case of In Bruges, the last in that list is the heaviest weighted.
These two bros, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell), have done something truly awful, so their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), sends them to Bruges to hide out. I find it particularly interesting that all three of the actors cast in this movie’s major roles have maybe the most innocent faces in Hollywood, and yet their faces morph, somehow, into the faces of guilt-ridden blokes who are also capable of murder. Farrell’s face, in particular, really stretches and emotes in this movie. His eyebrows show so much; you want to hate him because he committed the worst crime of all (no spoilers), but you see what his own mind has done to him, you see what his mouth spouts, and you understand his pain, and you feel terrible for him. His eyebrows soak up all the sympathy you give. Gleeson has a jolly look about him, but he is empty of it, tamping down his emotions save for a few scenes. He’s the strongest of the three characters, the most adaptable to icky situations. He’s the only of the three hitmen you’d want on your side. And Ralph… well, I love him, but ever since The Grand Budapest Hotel, I think I just prefer him as a comedic lead. His face is too soft. But he does have a certain unidentifiable European authority that aids him as Harry.
To say that Bruges is the fourth character in this guys’ night out would be disgusting and hilarious, so I’m keeping it in. It’s not so much the fourth character as a backdrop that Ray uses as a punching bag and Ken breathes in deeply and Harry could care less about. Despite the bloodshed – and there is quite a bit – the city escapes beautiful. It’s an advertisement for the city, somehow. “Come here, and we’ll show you a good time. You’ll be fine. Stay away from Irish men, though.”
The way the actors speak takes on a certain rhythm, but it’s one that’s accented by silence, too. This script is tight, and it leaves a lot to those facial expressions and even an occasional visual joke or cue. Yet it doesn’t suffer from trying to be overly artsy. I expected to laugh out loud more, but maybe I held back because of how many “dark” comedies I’ve seen. My jadedness doesn’t take away from the film’s originality, though. I’m just an arse.
What a delightful film containing delightful performances. And what an odd, twisted, poetic story. Bravo, Martin McDonagh.