starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy
written and directed by Martin McDonagh
by Walter Chaw An ugly piece of work, writer-director Martin McDonagh's feature debut In Bruges has about it an unshakeable air of unleavened unpleasantness. It starts with the framing conceit of little boys with their heads blown off: the first victim unlikely because, hey, you'd at least turn your head if shooting started in the next room, right?; the second unsavoury because it caps a running joke about little people that isn't funny in the least. (No small accomplishment for running jokes about midgets, I don't have to tell you.) Between, find Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hitmen Ray and Ken, respectively, exiled to Bruges, Belgium after a London hit goes bad and forced to excrete witticisms in one another's company like Juno-spawned Pez dispensers. McDonagh's idea of profound profanity consists of Ray being very amused by midgets, fat Americans, and effete Canadians and Ken being sucked in by the medieval, touristy charms of sleepy Bruges; both await some word from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), himself busy doing a real convincing impersonation of Ben Kingsley's insane mobster from Sexy Beast. Funny how something can be both overwritten and underwritten, but there you have it. In Bruges posits the idea that our boys are in God's waiting room--not Florida, but some enchanted backwater, waiting for judgment on high for their sins while sightseeing ancient churches and contemplating Bosch. Ken takes the communion, Ray takes a piss, and Harry surfaces like a Cockney shark in a third act remarkable for its feckless cupidity.