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IN BRUGES

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Poesy, Jeremie Renier
Director: Martin McDonagh
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: June 24, 2008

ďRay, youíre about the worst tourist in the whole world.Ē

ďKen, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If Iíd grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didnít, so it doesnít.Ē

Film ****

Every so often, you come across a film that isnít quite what was promised in the trailer. Most of the time, itís an act of sheer dishonesty, but the case I had with In Bruges was definitely a first. The movie had a fantastic trailer, promising a brutally violent, Guy Ritchie-like dark comedy. And though the film itself wasnít so much what was promised in that clip, it turned out to be an even greater film.

Itís an often strange film, with a slow beginning pace that may put off some expecting the same high energy film that the trailer promised. But if you stick with it you will feel absolutely rewarded by the end. Itís a piece brewing with rich characterizations, startling violence and moments of outrageous humor that are just as startling.

The film opens in on two Irish hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson). As the result of a seriously botched assignment, the two find themselves in the city of Bruges (which is in Belgium) much against their will. Ray canít stand the city at first glance, but Ken insists on taking advantage of the sightseeing.

While there, the two are to do nothing more than sit and wait for instructions from their boss. Ray, whose moodiness seems to escalate as much as his distaste for Bruges, is frequently reflecting on the botched job that landed him there to begin with. Feeling like heís nearing a nervous breakdown, he luckily finds something to take his mind off everything, in the form of a town beauty named Chloe (Clemence Poesy).

But the city still manages to get under Rayís skin, not to mention numerous tourists. He seems to attract the worst qualities in everyone he meets in Bruges, which then cause him to utter some truly offensive (but seriously funny) monologues. Normally, something like this would be used for simple shock value, but once you take into account why Ray is so on edge most of the time, it makes sense why he would lash out like he does.

The movie continues to surprise to the point where it becomes just as unique as the city of Bruges itself. Among these surprises is the introduction of a dwarf American actor (Jordan Prentice), who Ray gets to know during the course of a coke-fueled party in a hotel room. Heís the first dwarf character Iíve seen in a film who addresses serious problems that come with being in such a minority, and not in the way you might think.

And to top it all off, the film becomes loaded with fantastic tension once the hit menís boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) enters the picture. His presence in the movieís last half hour results in some truly classic moments, as far as Iím concerned. And I havenít even touched on why he gets involved in the situation in the first place, because so many details of this film deserved to be completely relished.

The sign of a great film is one that starts off good, only to become better and better with each progressing scene, which is indeed the pattern of In Bruges. The characters are rich and so well developed, and you canít wait to see what theyíll say or do next. If anything can be said about the filmís first time writer/director, English playwright Martin McDonagh, itís that he has an amazing way of creating environments and the individuals that inhabit them.

For the actors, this represents some career defining performances. Colin Farrell, an actor Iíve always liked, delivers what is unquestionably his best and most revealing performance to date. Itís a terrifically complex character, and Farrell pulls it off tremendously. I dare anyone who has written Mr. Farrell off to see this movie and tell me he doesnít do a fantastic job.

Likewise, Brendan Glesson is remarkable in a role that is just as complex, only you wouldnít suspect it at first glance. The more his character unravels, the more dynamic he is. And words canít express the joy I got from watching Ralph Fiennes, complete with a Michael Caine-like cockney accent, delivering some of the most incredible dialogue Iíve heard a single character deliver in any recent film.

In Bruges has already made a high spot on my list of the best films of this year. Itís hard to get across how great this film is without revealing certain details of the plot, which I canít mention because the experience wouldnít be as effective. Like the city of Bruges, it is quite a unique film working many different tones flawlessly, right up to the dark and surprisingly executed final scene.

Video ****

This anamorphic presentation from Universal is visually engaging fight from the opening scene. The Bruges you see is the actual city of Bruges, and trust me when I say that watching it here will be as close as youíll ever get to actually being there. The image quality is nothing but a sharp, crisp and fully detailed picture. Bright and dark sequences are at equal measure, and both get excellent treatment.

Audio ***1/2

Though mostly a dialogue-oriented film, the 5.1 mix does deliver an unexpected bang. Carter Burwellís unique piano-based score sounds most absorbing, and the periodic gunfire delivers quite the impact, particularly in the filmís climax. Dialogue delivery is superbly heard, as well.

Features ***

Despite the lack of a commentary track, the extras on this Universal release are most satisfactory. Featured are several Deleted/Extended Scenes, as well as a Gag Reel, three featurettes; ďWhen In BrugesĒ, ďStrange BrugesĒ and ďA Boat Trip Around BrugesĒ, each of which is well handled. Lastly, we get a piece called ďF**king BrugesĒ, which is a quick and hilarious montage of every single profane word uttered in this film, which needless to say is quite many.

Summary:

I may never get to actually set foot in Bruges, but having seen In Bruges that wonít matter since I got quite a brilliant film along with a most amazing level of scenic value. Itís easily one of the very best films of this year. Fans of crime-laden dark comedies should indeed put this high on their must see list.

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