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In Bruges

When In Bruges...

Looking for a brief vacation? Or perhaps you’re looking to lay low after an assassination gone awry? Try Bruges. If you’re scratching your head wondering exactly where Bruges is, you’re not alone. It’s in Belgium and for Ray (Colin Farrell), an impatient assassin with a heavy conscience, it’s home…at least for a little while.

Accompanying Ray on his "vacation" is Ken (Brendan Gleeson), a fellow assassin with a few more notches on his belt than Ray. While Ken views Bruges as an opportunity to relax and sightsee, Ray is bored out of his addled mind while the two await instructions from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) in the wake of an assassination gone bad. When the call from Harry finally does arrive, Ken and Ray’s "vacation" in Bruges takes a decidedly ominous turn.

Matters of life and death flow throughout In Bruges. Despite the heavy and sometimes dark subject matter the film explores, director Martin McDonagh manages to inject comedy into the film that is at times shocking, but never fails to entertain. The odd coupling of Ray and Ken provides a reasonable amount of humor as Ray ruffles the feathers of overweight tourists and drinks himself into a stupor while Ray does his best to pretend to be casually vacationing.

Farrell puts forth a solidly engaging performance as the wisecracking Ray. Initially appearing to be a bit daft and obnoxious, we come to learn there is more to Ray than meets the eye. He carries some emotional baggage from the botched assassination that he can scarcely live with. Farrell provides much of the humor throughout the film with some brilliant one liners, the best of which involves some elephantine American tourists. He is also convincing in some of the more poignant moments in the film.

Complementing Farrell’s turn is Brendan Gleeson as Ken, an assassin who is a bit longer in the tooth and a bit wiser. Gleeson plays a father figure towards the somewhat uncouth Ray. Given the isolating nature of the work they do, it’s not terribly surprising that Ken would view Ray as a son of sorts as it appears he has no family or children of his own. Ken provides a bit of a stabilizing force for the not so stable Ray.

No less inspired is the performance of Ralph Fiennes as Ken/Ray’s boss, Harry. Harry is an unrepentant prick. We learn this just from listening to the man blather on the phone when talking to Ken. Ralph’s appearance in the latter stages of the film only serve to further reinforce his status as said prick. Fiennes brings a comical menace and malice to his turn as a man who only sees the world in black and white and is forced to clean up the mess left behind after the botched assassination Ray was responsible for.

In Bruges is the kind of dark comedy that feels similar in some respects to The Matador or The Hunting Party. Life and death are serious matters, but it’s only life and death after all. Director Martin McDonagh does an excellent job in eliciting great performances from his primary cast and marrying comedy with decidedly dark subject matter.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars