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I think that I will shortly be purchasing the Oscar winning short film Six Shooter from 2004. I’ve got an iTunes gift card for just the job. The thought occurred to me after seeing the wonderful debut from director Martin McDonagh, In Bruges. After seeing the trailer, which really worked for me, many times and wondering at how it is from an Oscar winning director yet never hearing of the name, I did some research. While he already has more little gold men than Alfred Hitchcock, his actual feature premiere is what has opened this weekend. It is Irish, most definitely, and if you have trouble with the accent, maybe you should steer clear until in comes out on DVD, however, if you can cope, this is a smart pitch black comedy. When I say pitch black, I mean black hole expanse of darkness. The trailer leads you to believe it will be an uproarious time, and while it is very funny and very smart, there is a tragic event that is held over the proceedings, lending a somber shadow over all that occurs. In the end though, it is consistent with its wit and drama, telling an intriguing story and never relying on the laughs to hide any plot point that the creators may not have wanted to work out to completion.

If I am to gripe about anything, it will be the ending. Not the very end, however, as that is absolutely perfect. The camerawork, voiceover, and final shot cannot be argued, it is the climax that happens just before that rings false. It is the only moment like that, though, so I don’t hold it against the film. McDonagh needed a way to get his characters to their arc’s conclusions and if that means turning one of the roles, at first seeming to be there for jokes, into a pawn for a symmetrical kind of convenience, I’ll give him that reprieve. As far as fitting with the story, yeah it works; it has to because the incident is alluded to unknowingly at many times during the course of the sightseeing romp. I guess I think it fits too well and wish McDonagh could have come up with another way to do it.

Besides that, though, In Bruges is a great time at the theatre. Colin Farrell is steadily becoming a favorite of mine with his precise comic timing and broad facial expressions. I may be one of the few people on earth that loved his comedic turn in Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, (yes I truly believe the comedy was intentional), and here he shows it was not a fluke. Kind of similar to his scene-stealing role in Intermission, he is a punk with a lousy disposition and disregard for tact. Here, however, he also has a conscience. This tug-of-war is ripe for laughs as he is a sweet guy, he just doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. One-liners are in abundance and you will be laughing continuously. Brendan Gleeson helps this fact by being an effective straightman to play off of. He knows the score and tries to enjoy the “fairytale” city while his cohort sulks and puts on “moods like a five year old” because, honestly, unless you grew up on a farm and were slightly retarded, Bruges is really just hell on earth. (Actually, the city looks pretty great and I wouldn’t mind checking it out once in my lifetime.)

The periphery roles, and there are many, also add depth and interest to the film. Small characters like Eric Godon’s alcove loving gun dealer, Jordan Prentice as a horse-tranquilizer taking midget actor (he played Howard the Duck, that is awesome), and Clémence Poésy as the love interest and enigma Cholë all are fun and never quite feel just thrown in as jokes, but instead integral parts to the story. Of course, the great Ralph Fiennes is involved too. His accent and vocabulary rivals Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast and unfortunately is a much smaller part than anticipated from the trailer. Well maybe not unfortunately, because if he was in more it might have become a gimmick. I also couldn’t help stop thinking of Harry Potter with Mad-Eye Moody, Lord Voldemort, and Fleur Delacour all involved.

I highly recommend this film for anyone looking to see a good drama with comic overtones. Don’t go in thinking this is to be a total good time, with laughs a minute, there is so much more to the tale that you may not expect or necessarily be hoping for. At times it is very dark and drains every molecule of happiness out of your heads, but thankfully a good joke or line will be coming shortly to alleviate the depression.

In Bruges 8/10

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photography:
[1] Jordan Prentice (left), Clémence Poésy (center) and Colin Farrell (right) star in Martin McDonagh’s IN BRUGES, a Focus Features release.
[2] Brendan Gleeson (left) and Ralph Fiennes (right) star in Martin McDonagh’s IN BRUGES, a Focus Features release.

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