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In Bruges

Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh

Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes

I have to admit that I have a considerable dislike for Colin Farrell … and can you blame me? Surely if you sat through “Miami Vice,” you cannot. Thankfully, Farrell departs from roles such as Bullseye in “Daredevil” and whoever the hell it was he played in “S.W.A.T.” to take on a role that suits him much better in this new film, “In Bruges.” Even Mr. Farrell would probably have to agree with me that there are few words for how terrible some of the films he has participated in are. When speaking about his “In Bruges” character, he hints at what might have gone wrong in earlier roles, remarking “[It’s] nice to not have to pretend to be cool.” It seems that Farrell has changed his ways and it can only be for the better.

Farrell gives a decent, bordering on good performance in “In Bruges,” but he is easily outshone by co-stars Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. Gleeson plays Ken, who, along with Farrell’s Ray, is a hit man sent to Bruges, Belgium to hide out after a job goes wrong. Fiennes portrays their ruthless and foul-mouthed boss, Harry. The first half of the film is fairly light-hearted as the two leads explore Bruges and get into all sorts of mischief while they wait for news from Harry. The final half, however, is very dark and heavy as the shit hits the fan and bullets start flying. Without giving too much away, it is clear that Bruges is the last stop for most of the characters.

This mix of outrageous comedy and dark reality is different from other “dark comedies” in the recent past in a way I can’t really put my finger on. Some of the dialogue is truly hilarious, but it is followed by themes that are absolutely depressing. It is hard to keep laughing when accidentally shooting children in the head is involved. Some of the situations are also completely bizarre, but in a good way. When prompted about the absurd nature of the comedy (as evidenced in my favorite scene, where two hit men, a midget, and some whores are in a hotel room doing lines of stolen cocaine and discussing the possible future war between whites and blacks), writer/director McDonagh proclaims, “It’s not very PC… [but] I think we got the balance very well.” Farrell is in agreement and says the film is “So unusual, so unique with an amazing balance between comedy and despair.” Intentional as the mix of light and dark may be, it still creates a film that is a little schizophrenic, a film missing some thread or connection to really tie things together. It was so close, but perhaps not all the way there.

So what could have rounded out the film? A better soundtrack or some interesting sound editing could have done a world of good, but other than that I can’t think of too much. For McDonagh’s first full-length film (following his Academy award winning “Six Shooter” also starring Brendan Gleeson), it is a fantastic debut. Look for some interesting things in the future from this up-and-coming Brit.