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Poe’s Picks returns with a review of “In Bruges”

Words by Matt Poe

“In Bruges” (2008)

Netflix Star Rating: ★★★½☆☆
Poe’s Star Rating: ★★★★☆ (modern noir at its finest)


Two hitmen must lay low in Bruges, Belgium, after a job gone seriously wrong. But, the seemingly quiet European city becomes anything but with these two nutjobs in town.

Category: Noir, Thriller, Drama

Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language and some drug use

Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh

Ah yeah, the blog is back, baby! The man tried to hold me down but they couldn’t any longer. The fact that this audience survived the summer without this blog is a testament to you, dear reader, and I am in the process of sending you all a lovely gift basket as a token of my appreciation. Summer’s end features us trading in movies filled with washboard abs and scantily clad bikinis for the types of movies that begin to put a little fog in your breath and in the night’s air. I know. It upsets me, too.

But this makes the blog all the more important. Whereas summer is made for being outside and weaning ourselves off the drug that is Netflix, fall sees us begin to up the dosage a little for those days when it’s chilly out and you want to snuggle up with that special someone for a Netflix movie. (I’m talking about nachos, duh.) So if you’re new to the blog, you’ll get the hang of it soon. If you’re a seasoned veteran, welcome back. Let’s start the show.

In Bruges
Photo Courtesy of IMDB.

“In Bruges” tells the story of two very different men who take a very different kind of vacation to the city of Bruges, Belgium. Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are two hitmen ordered to hide out in Bruges after a job goes horribly wrong back in London. They are ordered to wait in the city and lay low until they receive further instruction from their boss, Harry, and until the situation cools down. Both Ray and Ken have different ideas on how their time together in Bruges will be spent.

Ray, weary of the city the minute they arrive, decides the best way to spend their time is to drink at the local pub, look for chicks and do as much cocaine as possible with a local midget. Ken, the older and more seasoned of the two, is much more intent on seeing the sites and culture of Bruges while simultaneously laying low to avoid further suspicion. He’s been around the block and knows what these situations entail.

For the first portion of the film, the oddball couple meander around the city doing exactly so, with some hilarious antics and results. All seems to be going well and the men believe the situation will blow over. You and I both know that’s a damn lie and wouldn’t make for much of a fun movie. All it takes is one phone call from Harry and the entire movie flips on its head in the best way possible. There are several twists along the way, but that first one will floor you and the duo’s stay in Bruges becomes anything but casual.

That’s all I’ll say for now because as you’ll find in article two, section 17, paragraph three of the Poe’s Picks handbook, to give too much away in a thriller is subject to severe punishment. The film is beautifully shot and I suspect most of you—myself included—didn’t know about this hidden gem of a city. I went to Europe years ago and this movie made me long to return. It’s essentially a three-man show here and all three big-time actors deliver the goods.

Gleeson, who most of you may recognize as Mad-Eye Moody in the “Harry Potter” films, is a treat as the aging hitman who doesn’t know how much longer he can do the deeds asked of him. His character brings sympathy to a job that requires virtually none. Ralph Fiennes, one of the most diverse and gifted actors of our generation (and also from “Harry Potter”), is superb as the batshit crazy boss, Harry. If he were my boss, that snarl alone would cut through me.

The show belongs to Farrell, who has really become a respected actor in his own right. He did a lot of commercial work in his early days with features such as “Daredevil,” “S.W.A.T.” and “Alexander,” but has taken a nice career arc into a serious performer. His Ray is a nut job on the outside and he uses it to mask the pain from the job gone wrong. We’re not sure if he’s cut out to be a hitman, but you’ll have to see for yourself. Be on the lookout for him in this year’s “The Lobster,” which he’ll surely win some awards for.

Unlike “The Iceman,” another movie about a hitman that appeared earlier on this blog, this one doesn’t take itself too seriously. The two are meant to be different films and while both of them are dark, “In Bruges” has a grin about itself. It’s not the only reason it’s a better movie, but it is one of them. There are some heavy themes: life, death, redemption, accepting one’s fate. They’re done in a Tarantino-esque (think “Pulp Fiction”) style that sprinkles some great comedic work into situations where we shouldn’t be laughing, but we just can’t help ourselves. Kudos to Martin McDonagh and his screenplay for that.

I love these types of movies: insert characters, setting the scene and hitting the ground running. It may be a little too wacky or violent for some. When the film ended, I liked it. After several days passed, I really liked it. I think you’ll feel the same. And if you don’t, just tell me I’m an idiot and why.

The blog has returned, my friends. It’s good to be back.

Until next time.

In Good Films We Trust,

Matt “Roger Ebert wishes he was half the film critic I am” Poe

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