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.