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Two hitmen escape to the Belgian city of Bruges after their boss tells them to flee England. The two find their stay to be more eventful than sightseeing and pub-drinking, along with several interesting encounters and situations they find themselves in.
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Dark comedy is a very hit-or-miss kind of genre. Dealing with serious subject matter in a light-hearted and laughable tone is understandably difficult to attempt. Some may find intensively brutal irony hilarious, while others may put shame to those who could think up such a tasteless and unwatchable concept. However, the creative and critical payoff is great for these kinds of movies if done right. It makes for some original and unpredictable content on screen that can keep audiences stuck to their seat the whole way through. A movie like this doesn’t disappoint when it comes to creating some laughs when you probably think you shouldn’t.
Praise should go out to Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who play a very palpable bromance throughout the story, and it’s almost heartbreaking when the events unfold near the end. You have two very Irish actors, playing two very Irish people, and exploring Europe in what I can think of a very Irish way. Not only does it create a naturalistic feel to their performances, their humour also seems genuine, and who can ever be disappointed with a Brendan Gleeson performance?
As Ken pretty much babysits a gloomy and guilt-ridden Ray through the streets, we follow them as they reflect on their job not-so-well done that had planted them there in the first place. Ray’s inexperience reared its face in tragically ironic fashion on his first hit, and it’s almost scary that something like that would make you chuckle, yet I had trouble holding my laughs back. Despite this, the film balances its asinine, though very funny exchanges between Gleeson and Farrell (and dwarves) with a few shocking instances of tragedy. The film often hits you quite hard with these scenes, and it’s a refreshing but unsettling change from most comedies that rather drag on until their humour is sucked dry.
An accessory to Ken and Ray’s experience in Bruges, we have quite complimentary secondary characters, including Ray’s love interest in Chloe, a drug dealer masquerading as a production assistant on a film set, a dwarf actor named Jimmy whom Ray seems to take interest towards, and Marie, the pregnant co-owner of the hotel the two stay in. Among these secondary characters, you have Harry, played by Ralph Fiennes, the two hitmen’s boss who provides most of the f-words that litter the dialogue quite effectively.
All these characters end up intertwining towards the final stages of the film, much in the essence of QT or the Coen Brothers, yet it still seems strangely fitting, even if tragic, that this occurs to Ray and Ken. By the time the middle of the film rolls around, the pacing seems to have slowed to a near-end vibe, yet as soon as that next plot point comes, the movie picks up into a whole new feeling. Ken and Ray’s bromance is inevitably tested, and the comic relief of the first half of the movie flows into the second half easily with McDonagh’s writing and directing. Amongst that however, the “dark” aspect of the dark comedy starts to appear, and Ray’s personal demons seem to catch up with him; like Ray, you can’t help to think “In Bruges, of all places.”
The film is sure to collect at least a couple of laughs, even if dark comedy isn’t your cup of tea. McDonagh’s writing of Farrell and Gleeson’s characters alone can draw you in, despite the atmosphere set for these kinds of films. Their relationship is both hilarious and touching to watch, and the film plays on that in true dark comedy fashion. This is, as I said, dark comedy done right. It leaves the effect of a smart, original comedy that you rarely get to see go mainstream these days. The selling point could be its Oscar nominations, but if that doesn’t do it for you, just listening to two Irish hitmen talk about spiritual judgement should convince you otherwise.