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Mixed Feelings in the Dramedy “In Bruges”

Kaitlyn Conway | Monday, March 23, 2009

“In Bruges” is the debut film of writer/director Martin McDonagh. The film is a comedic thriller, both dark and hilarious by turns. Judging from the trailer, you would think that it was more laughs, but it is soon clear that the film puts a lot of emphasis on more serious questions. It’s difficult to decide if the film is good because, while it delves deeply into interesting ideas, it gets too confused in its strange pairing of hilarity and very dark ideas.The basic premise of the film is that two hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are sent to lie low in the picturesque Belgian town of Bruges after a job gone wrong. For the first half of the film, they are waiting for instructions from their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). In the second half, they aim instead to avoid him. The subplots include Ray’s love-interest Chloà (played by French actress Clémence Poésy) and a film about midgets.If you’re thinking this is a strange mix, then you’re right. The film swings between outrageously comic scenes and dark, violent moments. The actors, however, rise wonderfully to the occasion. Farrell’s performance is particularly noteworthy, as he is becomes sympathetic during Ray’s darker moments and handles the sarcasm of the funnier moments with skill. He definitely steals the show.However, it’s difficult to decide what the movie is supposed to be about. In some scenes, it can be viewed as pure comedy, simply a delightful romp in the storybook town as Ray and Ken fail to act completely like tourists (though this is much more on Ray’s case then Ken’s). However, underlying the entire film is the horrific accident that brought Ray and Ken to Bruges, and eventually brings Harry. Through its extreme violence, the film seems to be aiming for another message, something that it loses through the more comedic moments. However, it can also be argued that the comedic moments simply highlight the darker features of the film in a different way. Sometimes, it’s a little hard to keep track of exactly what’s going on in Bruges.If confusing, “In Bruges” does make you think. It’s not the same old gung-ho movie about hit men that audiences are used to. McDonagh throws different ideas into the mix, questioning how far people are willing to go to preserve honor and what’s right. The film may try too hard to fit more solidly into the comedy genre than it needs to succeed. If watched without the expectation of the movie being gut-bustingly funny throughout, the deeper messages will get across and will have people considering them for hours after the credits roll.