For some reason, I just never made it to the theater to see "In Bruges", the new film starring Colin Farrell as Ray and Brendan Gleeson as Ken, two British hit men who flee to hide out in Bruges, Belgium when Ray accidentally kills a little boy during one of his hits. Their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) wants them out of the picture until the heat dies down, so he sends them to his favorite place in the world, for a little holiday.
"In Bruges" is a type of film I am generally inclined to see; a gangster film, filled with interesting character actors, some humor, some action, and an exotic locale. But I never made it to the theaters and decided to watch it on DVD recently.
As soon as Ray and Ken arrive in Bruges, Ray is immediately ready to leave; he needs action, excitement, things to do, London, Glasgow and Dublin excitement. Sleepy little Bruges doesn't offer any of this. Ken, on the other hand, is smitten with the old world charm and wants to play the tourist, visiting all of the churches and historical sites, learning about them. Ray thinks he is mad, but they have to stay put until Harry calls with instructions and he tries to play along. They stumble across a movie set one evening and Ray eyes a beautiful woman, Chloe (Clemence Poesy, Fleur DeLacour in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") who agrees to a date. A midget actor enters the picture and they miss a call from Harry who is, kindly, very upset when they don't answer the phone and he realizes they aren't awaiting his instructions.
The problem with "In Bruges" is that it isn't very funny. At various times, there are bits of drama, bits of romance, bits of strangeness, bits of gangster-noir, bits of mildly amusing stuff going on. But these various, and disparate elements don't mesh into the whole the filmmaker is hoping for.
After Ray and Ken arrive in Bruges, we watch as they interact and learn about their relationship and why they have been exiled. This is the best part of the film because we get a real vision of the characters, a real feel for them. Then, the film introduces other characters and the film begins to become increasingly unfocused and moves in too many directions.
Colin Farrell is good as Ray. You get a real sense for how his life is spiraling out of control; he is clearly distraught about the death of the child he killed (which is shown and explained in a brief flashback) and this leads him to look for ways to deaden the pain and to divert his mind. When he meets Chloe, he unexpectedly finds himself attracted to her, as more than a one night stand, because she is very different from the other girls he meets; challenging, exciting, confident, unexpected and independent along with the requisite sexy. Once they meet, he almost begins to think he might be able to live in Bruges.
Brendan Gleeson is also good as Ken. Sent to chaperone, he tries to make the most of the trip and take in the sites, referring to a guidebook and giving an uninterested Ray a history lesson. Then Harry tells him the real reason for his trip and he spends some time trying to work out all of the issues before deciding he can't complete his assignment.
Ralph Fiennes is good as Harry, the crime boss who tries very hard to maintain a certain image but isn't beyond using a lot of fowl language. Speaking with a harsh, working class accent, Fiennes reveals his character's origins that help to show us how determined and desperate he is to maintain his place in life.
But as the film continues, it takes on an almost hallucinatory quality that just doesn't work. By the time of the inevitable showdown between the three leads, the story and characters lose any tenuous connection they may have already had and "In Bruges" becomes a film that is worthy of a DVD rental and little else.
My mind was clearly trying to give me a subtle message. "Save your money, wait for the DVD". Thornhill is good that way.