Colin Farrell, whatever happened to him? Was it his choice of movie projects? I have to wonder, because he was so good in this, it’s like one of those roles when you see someone new and think, he’s destined for bigger, better things, only you realise it’s Farrell, and all those bigger, better things are in the past. Well, maybe. In Bruges is, shockingly, over ten years old, released back in 2008, and I’ve only just come to around to it. So while it follows stuff like Minority Report, Phone Booth, Alexander and The New World, it also predates that Total Recall reboot and his turn in True Detective (which I thought was pretty damn great) so you never know. Maybe bigger and better things still lie ahead.
But In Bruges is great, and a big part of that is due to Farrell. He’s really good in this, ably supported by Brendan Gleeson in one of his own better turns (which is saying a lot). Maybe Farrell needs help filtering out the crap projects, or maybe he’s happy enough with the pay cheques.
I (eventually) came to this film by way of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which I saw awhile ago now but which I really enjoyed- and everyone was telling me at the time to see director Martin McDonagh’s previous film (In Bruges), so here we are, yeah, eventually.
In Bruges is one of those weird, small, quirky projects that are just so neat you can’t help but fall in love with it. Hit men Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Gleeson) are ordered by their paymaster Harry Walters to lay low in Bruges, Belgium, after their latest hit went sour with the death of an innocent child bystander. Ken falls for the old-fashioned, romantically historical charm of the city instantly, but Ray isn’t interested, to him it’s an old and boring place, enlivened only by his chance encounter with a local girl, Chloe (Clémence Poésy), who is working with a film crew shooting an American movie in the city. Both men find a new appreciation for life- Ken through the fairytale beauty of the city, Ray through the romantic possibilities with Chloe. But Ray is constantly ridden by guilt for the child’s death, and Ken’s friendship is challenged when he receives instructions from Harry to ‘deal with’ his partner…
In Bruges is a funny, sometimes dark, sometimes enchanting, dark comedy, an oddly gentle character piece with all sorts of interesting and diverting characters and twists. It isn’t the kind of film we see very often- indeed, it really feels like something out of the early 1970s. Something like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, or Charley Varrick. It really feels out of time, and I suppose, on reflection, the same was true of Three Billboards. It occurs to me that this is exactly the kind of project that Netflix should invest in- if they could produce Netflix Originals of this calibre, well, we really wouldn’t need the cineplex at all, would we? Who needs Disney blockbuster bubblegum when you can be entertained by films like this?