IMDB #239 In Bruges

Whatup, internet? I’m sticking with this business, even months apart! So there! Next up on the countdown is In Bruges, a film that wasn’t on my original list, but the French film that I was supposed to do (La Haine) is boring as all get-out, and it’s fallen off in the meantime. This means, by a rule that I made up, that I get to replace it with something that’s appeared on the top 250 in the intervening time. And guess what’s at number 231 right now? That’s right, In Bruges, a film that would get like a zillion Oscar nominations if the world were as awesome as it is before I wake up in the morning.

The Key Players:

Our director is an Irish gent by the name of Martin McDonagh, who was mostly a playwright before wining an Academy Award for a live action short film called Six Shooter in 2006, and writing as well as helming 2008’s In Bruges.

Colin Farrell, who you may know from such classics as S.W.A.T., the re-imagining of Miami Vice in film form (which my friend Dave will defend to the death, because he loves Michael Mann like a long-lost brother), tabloid photos wherein he’s dressed like a hobo, and Daredevil, stars as an assassin in training that completely FUBARs his first assignment.

Brendan Gleeson plays his friend and mentor- he’s hip to us younger folks for his work in recent masterpieces like Gangs Of New York and 28 Days Later, and to the even younger for the last two Harry Potter movies. He’s also been in Braveheart, Michael Collins, Troy, Kingdom Of Heaven, and Beowulf. In fact, I bet he has business cards that just say Brendon Gleeson: Badass for Hire.

Finally, Ralph Fiennes shows up halfway through the film as a villainous, veribosely profane crimelord with a cockney accent, and Clemence Poesy (who you may vaguely recognize from the GAP ads on the back cover of recent Entertainment Weeklies, if you’re me) plays a random love interest for our boy Colin.

The Story:

It’s a pretty simple premise, and to be honest one that I didn’t think would hold water from the trailer (look up). Farrell, a novice thug, botches a hit. Fiennes, a scary boss guy, tells Farrell and Gleeson to hightail it to Bruges, Belgium (pronounced BROOJ), the most well-preserved medieval city in the world, to lay the eff low and do a little effing sightseeing.

Farrell takes an interest in a local film production that features a dwarf with very strong opinions, as well as a PA that looks like a fashion model (Poesy). Farrell hates Bruges with typical young-punk nihilism, Gleeson loves Bruges with typical middle-aged reflection. I smell a sitcom.

But then, things happen, and it’s crazy awesome. For more, read on.

The Artisticness:

I may be sort of an old tourist type well before my time (witness: I watch 60 Minutes, hate loud concerts and my jacket smelling like smoke, and I constantly spout Gloverisms about getting too old for various types of sh*t. I am precisely twenty four years old.), but Bruges looks awesome to me. It’s shrouded by a majestic mist in the mornings, bath in yellow light in the night, there are ancient towers, churches, castles.. It’s probably my innate American jealousy of Europe (quoth Eddie Izzard: “Where the history comes from.”), but we don’t have any ruins of anything.

So this film looks cool, with stark sepia and blue lighting, and it has an excellent score by Carter Burwell punctuated by the occasional rocking tune from The Walkmen or Townes Van Zandt. Plus the dialogue is punchy and clever, and peppered with many, many curse words, which seems like the way hitmen would actually talk.

How could it get even better? Oh yeah, the acting is incredible. You can tell from the start that McDonagh is a playwright by trade, with the gradually widening scope of the drama (there are some key twists and turns), with the focus remaining on a few key characters. You know what? Let’s move behind the spoiler veil and discuss this in detail.


So they get to Bruges, and bicker about there being nothing to do, and Farrell acts all edgy and difficult, and about twenty minutes into the film you get a flashback to the botched hit (he shot a priest, but frakked it up and winged a little boy in the head while firing through the guy. The boy dies on the scene). And you realize that Farrell’s been on the edge of breaking down the whole time, and he plays the whole thing with such relatively jumpy subtlety that you’re almost willing to forget about Phone Booth.

That’s Turn #1. Turn #2 is when Fiennes calls up Gleeson, and after a profanity laced, vaguely menacing conversation about how awesome Bruges is, you find out that the trip was a gift to Farrell, so he could be happy before Gleeson kills him. Because you can’t kill little kids. Apparently even gangsters have limits. Turn #2.

So Gleeson goes to kill Farrell, but only stops Farrell from shooting himself. Turn #3. He tells him to flee and start over. This enrages Fiennes, who comes to Bruges to kill Gleeson (but only shoots him in the leg, as they’re old friends). But (turn #4), Farrell has been arrested for punching a Canadian tourist and is discovered by Fiennes, who then fatally shoots Gleeson after a struggle, and chases after our boy through the snow-tinged streets of medieval Belgium.

Got all that? The films end in a spectacularly grim and brilliant scene where a gutshot Farrell stumbles through a film set, made up to resemble a Hieronymus Bosch painting, or a vision a purgatory, and Fiennes catches up and shoots him again, in the back.

But in the final turn, the bullet goes through our hero and blows the head off the dwarf. Mistaking the dwarf’s body for a child’s, Fiennes shoots himself on principle, leaving Farrell to wonder in voiceover, as paramedics rush to save him, if hell is just an eternity spent in effing Bruges. And he finally wishes he won’t die. Scene.


Overall- Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Well, I don’t normally recap the entire film, do I? So I’d say higher, but what do I know? Tasha Robinson of the Onion AV Club said this: “If Guy Ritchie sat down, took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths, and put as much thought as energy and style into his films, they'd look almost exactly like this.” I couldn’t agree more. This has all the wit and edge of a Ritchie film, but none of the overdone flash, and way way more emotional weight.

The Legacy:

Uh, it came out this year, so… awards remain to be seen, but I’m holding out hope for Gleeson to get some buzz, or maybe the screenplay (Original is annually a hard ballot to fill out. Most big pictures are normally based on something.)

And, for me at least, this and The New World officially move Farrell in the Serious Actor With Awards Potential category (instead of the, y’know, star of Oliver Stone’s Alexander category).

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Well, there's always one of those every-curse-word compilations, but honestly, just watch the following scene: a quiet moment of Farrell and Gleeson taking in the sights on a canal. It's a lot more representative of the film than the ridiculous trailer, which is all Hey! Guns, Gangsters, in Europe! Whoo! and gives you no impression that this is yes, the kind of film where someone karate chops a midget while on coke, but also the kind of film with thoughtful discussions of purgatory on park benches.

Leftover Thoughts:

-For a comparison, Guy Ritchie’s two smashes, Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are ranked at #188 and #160 on the list. Meh.

-Dave once dressed as Colin Farrell for Halloween. Not as one of his movie characters, just as the man himself, but to be fair he was the well-dressed Vanity-Fair-photoshoot Farrell (with fake tattoos on his arms and everything), not the so-scruffy-it's-kind-of-pretentious Farrell. Still, nobody got it.

-I’m expanding the rule (wherein I can substitute things for other things) to include obscure things I can’t get a hold of. As long as I replace it with things that still appeared in the top 250, I’ll sleep easy. But I’ll keep it in reason (i. e. I’m not gonna replace Casablanca with Iron Man (which recently cropped up at #249)).

-Ralph Fiennes is scary. That is all.

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