Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Poesy, Zelkjo Ivanek, Jordan Prentice, Eric Godon
Reviewed by Clement von Franckenstein
Rating (a 1 – 6 scale): 5
Bruges is one of the best-preserved towns in Belgium and it makes a majestic cinematic backdrop for this wonderfully funny film noir. Beautifully written and directed by famed British playwright Martin McDonagh (The Pillowman, The Lieutenant of Inishmore) making his feature film debut (although he won an Oscar in 2006 for his short film Six Shooter, also starring Brendan Gleeson). He rehearsed his cast for three weeks prior to shooting and it shows in the acting.
Colin Farrell and Gleeson play a pair of Irish mobsters lying low after a botched hit. They are sent to Bruges by their cockney London boss Harry, brilliantly played by Ralph Fiennes in his first working class role (his performance is just as effective as Ben Kinsley’s Oscar nominated thug in Sexy Beast but done very differently). The chemistry between the two hit men is first rate, with Farrell as Ray the younger killer, hating everything about Bruges whilst feeling remorse for his crimes. In this performance he has the ring of an Irish Robert Downey Jr., at the top of his game – a cracked soul yearning for redemption.
Gleeson, one of my favorite actors (who did years of stage in Ireland as an amateur whilst working as a school teacher, before joining the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts on a scholarship aged 35) is wonderful as the older criminal Ken, acting as a father figure to his younger partner, whilst at the same time taking in and thoroughly enjoying the artistic banquet provided by Bruges’ cathedrals, art galleries and buildings.
Being stuck in Bruges provides excellent fodder for the film’s opening dialogue, whilst it masks the pair’s real problem of how they can disentangle themselves from the "job gone wrong” in London, also taking into account that Ray mistakenly killed a young boy. McDonagh’s script then takes us on dizzying twists and turns with the plot getting thicker upon Harry’s arrival in Bruges.
The supporting cast is excellent, with Clemence Poesy as Chloe, a Dutch gangster's moll who has a fling with Ray, Zelkjo Ivanek (normally always a "suit” in films) as Chloe’s gay accomplice, Eric Godon as their boss Yuri who provides Ken and Ray with their guns, and Jordan Prentice as an American dwarf actor working on a film in Bruges.
This is one of the most satisfying film noirs I have seen for a long time with plenty of excitement, black humor and first-rate acting. I thoroughly recommend it.