It's a truly wonderful feeling when, over the week, you are given the news that the rest of family will be out at a party on Saturday evening, meaning you've got the night all to yourself. Unlike most boys my age, who might take the opportunity to hop straight onto the internet for a hour or so of the old indecencies, I decided it was high time I cleared a bit of space on my Sky+ memory, given the sheer number of films I have saved on there. When Saturday came round, and after a bit of careful deliberation over time, I plumped for Martin McDonagh's 2008 dark comedy In Bruges, which I saved last year...
I might mention that a couple of years ago I visited Bruges as part of a school trip I was on, which added a nice little personal aspect to the setting, and I recognised a few if the places Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell explore with varying amounts of enthusiasm. Admittedly, the actual town plays a hardly enviable role in the film. Farrell's Ray cannot stand the place, and will stay indoors at all costs. However, he cheers up when he meets a dashing lady on the set of a film being made in the area, and the pair strike up a relationship. From there, the film takes a blacker and blacker path. We discover that Ray and Gleeson's Ken are hitmen back from a job gone badly wrong in London, and sent to Bruges without any clues as to why they are there and who their next mark will be.
The comedy in In Bruges is dark. If you're offended by swear words and murder, it's unlikely that you'll enjoy this. Just about every profanity in the English language is muttered or screamed at some point in the script, with several really grotesque ones happening withing the space of thirty seconds or so, and the gore really is second to none. I find it enormously entertaining, but there are scenes it's difficult to watch without your fingers trying to get between your eyes and the screen. Drama of the deepest order begins to surface as the film progresses, and it seems to replace the comedy to a certain extent. This is not Hot Fuzz, where the humour is in the sheer ferocity and graphic nature of the violence. Here, it's played mostly seriously, and it's the placing of two faulty assassins in the dull, medieval city of Bruges that McDonagh drives most of the comedy from.
In a movie where the action is so focussed on just two men, their performances are vital. It's fortunate, then, that McDonagh got a hold of two of Ireland's best living actors, Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. His wonderful script required the leads to use both excellent comic skills and superb dramatic acting. Gleeson and Farrell work perfectly as a pair, with each individual reaction carefully crafted. Ralph Feinnes is ideal as their psychotically vulgar superior. The transitions from hilarious to shocking are faultless, showing the cast is more than capable of handling the darker aspects of the movie as well as the more irreverent.
While this is definitely one for people who like their comedy as a lactose intolerant person likes their coffee, you surprise yourself after the credits when you realise that running quite clearly alongside the jokes was a wonderfully crafted and told tale about subjects that many serious films struggle to handle correctly. Martin McDonagh has created a dramedy for the textbooks.
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