Combustible Celluloid
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With: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Poesy, Jeremie Renier, Thekla Reute, Jordan Prentice, Zeljko Ivanek, Eric Godon, Ciarán Hinds
Written by: Martin McDonagh
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language and some drug use
Running Time: 107
Date: 01/17/2008

In Bruges (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Belgian Tit-for-Tat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I have a feeling that in a very different world, writer/director Martin McDonagh would have titled his movie "In Fuckin' Bruges." But he can't, and so he's stuck with the odd and enigmatic current title, especially if -- like Ray (Colin Farrell) -- you've never heard of Bruges. (It's in Belgium.)

Hitman Ray and his older partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson) arrive in Bruges, though they're not sure why they've been sent. It could be they're hiding out from their last job. But of course, their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes, looking thin and hard like a human ivory walking stick) has something more sinister in mind.

While they wait, Ken tries to take in the sights like a tourist, while Ray befriends cute Chloe (Clemence Poesy) and dwarf actor Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), both working on a local movie shoot. Trouble arises and necessitates the need for more violence and bloodshed.

I can't say how many hitman movies I've seen in the past ten years, not to mention cutesy, half-funny ones like this. But McDonagh's film has at least two things going for it. McDonagh is a beloved playwright -- and an Oscar winner for Best Live Action Short Film -- who has a good ear for dialogue, including copious use of the aforementioned "f" word; the actors savor it like fine dining.

The film makes delightful use of its quaint setting as well -- during the holiday season, no less -- viewing every tower, church, museum, hotel, restaurant and bar available, and then using them all once again during the climax. McDonagh doesn't quite reinvigorate the genre, but if you liked Lucky Number Slevin or You Kill Me, you'll like this too.

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