“In Bruges” – 2008 Sundance Film Festival Review

Let’s say that you and a co-worker need to finish a project. It gets done, but with unintended consequences. As a result, your no-nonsense boss inexplicably decides to send you on a vacation in a foreign country. Forgive and forget, or the calm before the storm?

It’s not too difficult to guess which scenario is in the cards if the co-workers happen to be hitmen Ken (played by an un-scruffy Colin Farrell) and Ray (Brendan Gleeson), two of the main characters in Martin McDonagh’s “In Bruges,” which opened the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Calling the shots from afar is Harry (Ralph Fiennes), who sends his employees to the unlikely setting of Bruges, Belgium. While Ray is delighted by the respite and fascinated with exploring the sites one of Europe’s oldest cities, Ken reacts in the opposite manner, going off on his own and causing scenes with a seemingly random cast of characters during various chance encounters.

For much of the film, Farrell and Gleeson exchange comedic barbs as the plot resembles a travel adventure between two buddies. One must remember, however, that their line of work is not child’s play, and the people they meet in Bruges inevitably become a part of their complicated web. When Fiennes finally, literally, enters the picture, the light mood turns (kind of) and the flow is disrupted.

While all three actors, as well as Clémence Poésy (Ken’s love interest Chloë) and Jordan Prentice (Jimmy, the midget/dwarf – depending on which label you choose to go with), deliver performances that deftly maneuver between comedy and violence, it is that back-and-forth shift between the two areas that doesn’t quite work, especially when a couple of death-cheating moments are thrown in for good measure. The resolution does tie the loose ends together, but Ken’s hilarious, if at times off-color one-liners don’t seem to serve as a solid defense mechanism for the pain that he is trying to hide.