Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is an interesting little film. It’s one part action-comedy, one-part Shakespearean tragedy, and no matter how fucked up that may sound, it completely works. Arranged like an off-Broadway production of Sexy Beast, the film lives and dies by McDonagh’s words (no matter how explicit) and star Colin Farrell’s ability to make you sympathize with a bigoted hitman. It’s a great relief, then, to discover that both McDonagh and Farrell succeed in their respective tasks, all while delivering one of the most original films in years.
Opening with a narration from Ray (Farrell) explaining how a hit-gone-wrong landed him and partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson) in Bruges, the film follows the unlikely duo as they hide out in the Belgian city by order of their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Ken plans to make the most of their detour by playing the dutiful tourist, but Ray is absolutely miserable, claiming that “if [he’d] grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress [him], but [he] didn’t, so it doesn’t.” Unfortunately, Ray doesn’t know the real reason why he’s been brought to Bruges, and when Ken refuses to whack him for botching the job, Harry arrives in town to clean up the mess himself.