Friday, February 15, 2008

In Bruges (2008)

The marketing for this one makes it look like a throwback to that '90s staple, the wacky gangster comedy, but this film has a lot more on its mind than simple imitation of the blood-and-banter formula launched by Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction - or rather, what's more accurate to say is that In Bruges follows more strictly in the footsteps of those movies than most of their spawn, because like Tarantino's first films, In Bruges wraps a layer of sardonic comedy around a serious moral core.

A pair of hitmen, impulsive and inexperienced Ray (Colin Farrell) and steady, reflective Ken (Brendan Gleeson) find themselves sent to Bruges, Belgium by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) after a hit gone wrong. Once there, it's a clash between Ray's frustration and buried guilt over the hit, Ken's appreciation of the history and culture of the city, and the crassness of the tourists and assorted drug dealers and prostitutes they run into. Writer and director Martin McDonagh displays not only his skill for dialogue but a talent for crafting striking visuals and blending moods and tones. Like Tarantino's film, McDonagh isn't afraid to mix politically incorrect humor (making fun of fat people and dwarfs) with serious drama and a convincing romance between Ray and Chloe (Clemence Poesy). The film is only marred by some predictable plot twists and contrivances, but on the whole it's a thoughtful, moody piece of work that I found very entertaining.

It's also nice to see Colin Farrell doing the kind of movie he should be doing - something offbeat, smaller, playing a slightly scuzzy but essentially nice guy - and hopefully it's a sign he's getting away from the clutches of the studio system that's tried to force him into doing roles he wasn't well-suited for and seemed to flail in, like Alexander or Miami Vice. Gleeson and Fiennes, meanwhile, tear into their rich parts like the great character actors that they are.


Actionman said...

Can't wait to see this, checking it out this weekend, really looking forward. I am a big fan of Farrell, and while he was miscast in Alexander, I thought he was perfect in Miami Vice. The work he did there, and in The New World and Ask the Dust, has made him one of my favorite actors.

John M said...

Yeek. You go on at length, cursing Haneke for being "heartless" and "smug," and then you pinch this piece of crap's cheeks?

The movie's completely empty. It plays it both ways throughout, trying to be nihilistic and reflective at the same time, and is anchored to a lame, semi-desperate performance from Colin Farrell and his eyebrows. (Sorry, actionman...) It's all puffed-up cleverness. Like a Martin Macdonagh play without any character shading, anything resembling the real world, anything remotely expansive. It's airtight, proud of itself, not very funny, and about as uninspiring as a movie by a Tony award-winning playwright could be.

No, it's less than that, it's obnoxious and the way, when did it stop being funny to just add the word "black" into a joke for a tweak? 1980? Was it ever funny?

And I'll add this on top: the midget in the film is a terrible, terrible actor. He has no business being on screen.

But yeah, you're totally right: it's WAY better than Cache. It really affected me in a way that Funny Games just couldn't. (More on this later...don't even know where to start, factoring in your canonization of Eli Roth...yeah, no wonder you hated Funny Games, Jesus...)

Yeah, In Bruges really made me think--or wait, it's...bad to think? Nevermind, it didn't make me think.

You lost me, McMahon. Movies are not massages.

If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch Body Double, Raising Cain, and Snake Eyes. Masterpieces all.

Jeff McMahon said...

John, if we weren't already friends, I would have to call you an asshole for your remarks here. Seriously, that's what you're being. Write a conversational response, not a fucking platform speech.

First of all, I've never 'canonized' Eli Roth. I think he's a good director. He's as good as Neil Marshall or Stuart Gordon or Edgar Wright (if you know who any of them are). He's not as good as Hawks or Ozu, so give me a fucking break with your rhetoric.

Second, I think that given the two films that I've seen, Haneke is a lousy, smug director who uses his technical skill to mask his contempt for his audience and for the very process of narrative filmmaking. I think I said in my review that Funny Games is anti-art. If I didn't, I'm saying it now. His films are designed to pander to an audience that wants to condescend to the characters and stories that they're watching. You never argued my point earlier, so if you want to do so now, be my guest - on the appropriate page. But yes, Snake Eyes and Raising Cain and especially Body Double (which is a near-masterpiece) are all better than these two Haneke movies.

Third, In Bruges is a good movie. It's successful at juggling a variety of emotions and tones. I can understand why you would say that it's hypocritical. I disagree. It's a movie that clearly cares deeply about its characters (although using the dwarf for a plot contrivance at the end is admittedly clumsy) and I don't think it should be punished for being reflective _and_ funny at the same time (horrors!) You think it's airtight and proud of itself? You're airtight and proud of yourself. Jesus.

And what the fuck does this mean, "Movies are not massages."? Go read some Pauline Kael and come back when you have an anal stick-ectomy.

Jeff McMahon said...

...You know I still respect and like you, right, John? Just don't come here with your guns a-blazing.

In other news, I killed a mouse tonight. I didn't take pleasure in it, as I'm sure you must think an Eli Roth devotee must.

john m said...


Wow, post was in response to In Bruges...not a personal attack.

And just a little reality check here: you write movie reviews on your blog. Responding to your review is not a "platform speech." If you don't like being disagreed with--which, seriously, you clearly don't, you have a fairly extensive record now of amping up your responses and taking stuff into negative hyperbole--then maybe you shouldn't allow comments?

These are opinions, McMahon. Grow a thicker skin--you've made this way more personal than it is. Just this sentence:

"You think it's airtight and proud of itself? You're airtight and proud of yourself."

Yeah, that's pretty flawed rhetoric. Defensive in the worst way. I mean, we're a little bit beyond the "You think XY? Well, YOU'RE XY!"

And by the way, you NEVER even explained your hatred of Cache. Why not? I'm just curious how the hell you came to the conclusion that the film is heartless and smug. "Heartless," especially. This'll be good...let's hear it.

Woop, Mission to Mars is on TBS...gotta go.

Jeff McMahon said...

John, I'm sorry if my response was too strong, but I really don't think you can blame me for writing a pissy, aggressive response to your own pissy, aggressive post. Bringing in Eli Roth and DePalma for the purposes of mockery does not make you look like someone interested in polite discourse. There was no hyperbole here until you brought it in.

As for Cache, I don't actually hate it but when I saw it I didn't think it was anything special, that the gimmick of the movie was better done in Lost Highway, and that the gag about having a TV display all the troubles of the world while Binoche and Auteuil bicker and ignore it is a film student-level trick. And since Haneke obviously doesn't like any of his characters in that movie I think 'heartless' isn't out of line.

Still waiting for your defense of Funny Games - over on the other page, please.

cjkennedy said...

I liked In Bruges, but I didn't love it. Unlike John, I thought Farrell had a real knack with some pretty funny dialogue.

On the other hand, it wasn't quite entertaining enough to justify what I felt was a certain emptiness. Unlike Jeff, I found the "serious moral core" to be pretty shallow.

You could almost hear the gears turning in McDonagh's head as he hit on the idea that it might be funny to have two violent hitmen, sort of Laurel and Hardy types, spinning out of control in the sleepy, unchanging tourist town Bruges. Throw in a spiritual quandry, a midget and a couple of voila. In Bruges.

Having said all that, Farrell and Gleeson and Fiennes were good enough to keep it interesting and likeable.

Actionman said...

I agree with you cjkennedy, though I think I liked a bit more overall than you did. said...

John and jeff, get a room. You're both wrong in a way. IN BRUGES is a good film. Super non-PC, funny, gross and above all, entertaining. And Haneke is a bad mofo. He's the perfect example of an artist who people hate because he makes you think about yourself and what you find interesting or gross (or...smug and cold).

Jeff McMahon said...

Don, John and I are old friends, so a lot of this is to be expected. That said, I still disagree that Haneke 'makes you think about yourself' as far as I'm concerned. I'll give him credit for raising an interesting question (why do we find some movie violence acceptable) but I totally disagree with his tactics and destination after that point. I think the movie is a lecture made by a filmmaker who's decided he's superior to his own point even as he uses the same techniques, and I don't like being lectured.