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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Martin McDonagh|
with Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Jordan Prentice, Jérémie Renier, Zeljko Ivanek, Thekla Reuten, Eric Godon, Elizabeth Berrington, Anna Madeley, Ciarán Hinds
release US 8.Feb.08, UK 4.Apr.08
08/UK Focus 1h46
On the town: Farrell and Gleeson
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
An entertaining blend of dark comedy, gruesome suspense and tender emotion, this offbeat hitman movie somehow gets the balance just right, even as it indulges in extremely graphic language and violence.
After a job in London goes awry, hitmen Ray and Ken (Farrell and Gleeson) have been banished to Bruges, Belgium, by their boss Harry (Fiennes). They're not sure what they're supposed to be doing there; Ken decides to explore the city's medieval history, while the hyperactive Ray is bored out of his mind. But instead of lying low, Ray falls for the sexy Chloe (Poesy), befriends a spiky midget actor (Prentice), attacks a thug (Renier) and annoys an American tourist (Ivanek). So Harry comes to town to sort things out, and he's not happy.
Describing the plot only scratches the surface of what this film is about, because there's far more going on within each character. Besides the sharply witty banter, which ranges from farcical silliness to twisted verbal assault, there's a surprising emotional undercurrent that provocatively examines issues of guilt, redemption and payback. For these characters, Bruges is both heaven and hell, a dream-like fairy tale and crushing, grim reality.
The cast members all go for broke, with borderline overacting that's actually thrilling to watch. While Gleeson maintains a sardonic sense of humour blended with a fierce loyalty, Farrell is like a 5-year-old with ADHD. But his puppy-dog eyes go surprisingly deep, as he also reveals Ray to be a young man gripped by remorse and obsessed with the afterlife. Then Fiennes arrives and blows the film apart at the seams with an astonishingly fierce turn reminiscent of Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. He's often almost unrecognizable in his in-your-face viciousness, and perfectly nails Harry's warped sense of honour.
Along the way, writer-director McDonagh uses a lush shooting style to make the most of the otherworldly setting, from gothic churches to an art gallery full of grisly medieval paintings. There may be a bit too much homophobia in the dialog, and the plot's twists and turns may get rather ghastly. But the film constantly balances the brutality with funny touches and clever storytelling, right up to the breathtaking, almost poetic finale.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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