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In Bruges Movie Poster

In Bruges
Four out of Five Stars
Genre: Action/Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by:
Martin McDonagh
Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jordan Prentice, Clémence Poésy
Released by: Focus Features

In Short: A contradiction that works: a hit man movie with morals, and a laugh-out-loud shoot-‘em-up.  
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Bullets Over Belgium
Shoot to Kill. Graze Funny Bones.
by Andrew Bender

hitman with a conscience: hey, it could happen. And in “In Bruges,” which opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the combination is both wildfire ferocious and whip-smart funny.

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson play hitmen sent to Bruges, Belgium, following a botched job in London. Just about every guide book ranks medieval Bruges among Europe’s most exquisite cities, but Farrell’s character, Ray, doesn’t think much of the gothic surroundings. That’s because he’s haunted by a sin even worse than being a hitman.

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in In Bruges
Colin Farrell in In Bruges

It all leads to Farrell’s subtlest, funniest, sweetest, smartest and most accomplished performance in years. You know you shouldn’t be laughing, but you do as Ray pouts and hangdogs among the age-old posts and lintels like a potty-mouthed, sleep-deprived eight-year-old. But even in this unlikeliest of places he manages to find his own kind of fairyland: dwarves, drunks and druggies, babes, hookers and psychopathic robbers, with the occasional barroom brawl because, you know... just because.

This is writer/director Martin McDonagh’s first feature-length film, but you’d scarcely know it. The story is drum-tight, and the dialog rat-tat-tat. Gleeson is both fatherly and world-weary as Farrell’s compatriot and sounding board, and Ralph Fiennes, as the mob boss, unloads fusillades of f-bombs as readily as bullets.

Which brings us back to the hitmen. For all their bluster and bloviation, these guys operate under a code, and some of the movie’s most satisfying moments come in seeing the tension between the code and the city around it.

PNJ012808 (Updated 01/30/08 NJ)

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