Review: In Bruges

Published 7 years ago by , Updated February 9th, 2012 at 9:54 pm,

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: While the individual parts of the movie satisfy, In Bruges doesn’t really come together as a whole.

colin ferrel in bruges Review: In BrugesBack in November I posted the trailer to In Bruges and commented that it looked like a movie that would not be a hit with mainstream audiences but those that like indie movies would probably love it. Well I just watched it and I’m more certain than ever that my first reaction will turn out to be accurate.

Right from the opening frame of the movie it seems that the director is intent on keeping the audience off-balance. The camera pans across various landmarks and streets in the beautiful town of Bruges, Belgium with music that sounds like it comes from some French romance movie. But as this is happening, we get quick cuts to the two main characters, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) making funny comments profusely laced with the F-bomb.

It wasn’t the F-word or the humor that struck me as odd, heck, I thought Superbad was really funny – it was the incongruity of the scenery and music against what the actors were saying and doing. On a side note, if profanity in films bothers you, this is SO not the movie for you…

It turns out that the two fellows are British assassins just coming off a job, and have been ordered to go to Bruges to hide out for a couple of weeks. While older Ken enjoys the beauty and history of the town, Ken is completely and utterly uninterested. While Ken seems to be as much a mentor as a partner to Ray, the younger half of this duo reminded me of a pesky five year old boy – kind of like Dennis the Menace after too much sugar.

They run into an interesting cast of characters in town including the tough and beautiful pregnant woman who owns the hotel where they’re staying, a beautiful drug-dealing young woman who catches Ray’s eye, and a midget (sorry, dwarf) who has a taste for prostitutes.

Also appearing later in the film (although his expletive-laced voice is heard early on) is Ralph Fiennes as the man who is in charge of telling them who they need to kill and when. Fiennes did a great job in the role with an intensity that would unleash itself with great ferocity. I also enjoyed both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson was just peaceful to watch, if that makes any sense, and Farrell was the polar, manic opposite. His face was a rubber mask of expressions that was very entertaining to see.

There were also many very funny moments in the film including one scene where Farrell decks a guy he thinks is an American and right afterwards says: “That’s for John Lennon.” But then part way through the movie the tone changes abruptly into a much darker and tragic mode. Humor is still sprinkled throughout after this turn, but when you laugh at this point it’s almost more like nervous laughter, just to release the tension of what you’re watching.

So here’s the thing: This movie has a ton of what I think is really good stuff as far as script, acting, humor and drama. So why the relatively low rating? As much as I enjoyed the individual moments in the movie, for me it just didn’t gel as a whole. I really wish that the film had picked a course and stayed on it. Personally, when a movie starts out funny and then suddenly changes course into tragedy I just feel like I’m being manipulated, and it’s jarring.

Yes, fine, maybe that’s the point – but I don’t have to like it.

While I think In Bruges won’t be embraced by the average movie goer, I think that people who are really into indie films or movies that shift tone suddenly somewhere in the middle will like this.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. This film looked awefull in the trailer.

  2. I actually LIKED the trailer because I’m a fan off slightly odd, offbeat comedies.


  3. Man, Brussels is not a country, Bruges is a town in Belgium, just like Brussels is…

  4. Bart,

    Holy cow am I embarrased! Thanks for pointing that out, it’s been fixed.


  5. “It turns out that the two fellows are British assassins just coming off a job”
    No, they’re not they’re they’re Irish. There’s been quite a lot of blood shed (800 years of it)so that we Irish can affirm that we’re NOT British so I’d appreciate it if you could fix that glaring error in your otherwise adequate review.
    Chucky Arlagh

  6. chucky, you are just too fast and got there before me… sorry irish not british – ochon ochon’sochon ta mo chroi lan briste agus comhbron orm. what have we do to before people realise we are free, free, free at last. Eireann go deo.

    sorry my friend enjoyed the review however tainted it is by the ‘smear’ which is akin to calling you americans british overlooking the 200 odd years of your achievement.

  7. actually no… they’re english assassins, but Ray is irish… some of you guys really go too far with this political and/or ethnic stuff…. anyway… just saw the movie and i loved it. completely redeems collin farrel as an actor for me, i usually enjoy gleeson’s films, but both of these performances were spectacular. i wouldn’t say this is much of a thriller/comedy but more of a character analysis, as you see huge turns in the lives of these men. its a great movie, and if you can stand a movie with a pace a few steps slower than most, this one is a must see.

  8. The setting that felt like an “incongruity…against what the actors were saying and doing” was actually an intentional descision made by the director. He believed it created a contrast that made the violence seem even more unnatural. Bruges was so intertwined with the story that for the movie to have been set anywhere else would change the effect and existence of the characters.

  9. May I say that I can completely understand many people`s opinions (especially my friend`s ,who is a film student and he thinks he knows everything) that this movie sucked,because they are idiots and over looked the most poignant aspect of this movie that stared us right in the face like a little child ironically.

    It`s not humor or the setting or the plot (Ray killed a little boy and they are hiding out in Bruges) ,although those do help the film`s story but the most striking thing about this film is the characters which raises a few questions at the end of the movie for me.
    First off it is important to note that Ray is a good fighter.It looks like has has street skills.And even when he and Ken talks they share stories of how they solved a conflict through violence.It`s quite funny watching two assassins/criminals talk about their work.

    But this is the thing I felt was overlooked in this film by many viewers.

    Look how interested Ray is in dwarfs or as he said “They filming midgets!” as he runs up to the set.How he nags the whole time while Ken reads his books.How he gets bored quickly,makes noises and drags his feet.
    The meaning of the scene while that beautiful guitar plays as Ken gives a smile as Ray dresses himself in the mirror pulling weird faces and touching himself on the cheek.The Scene when he steals the drugs and bullets from Natalie`s apartment while that same music plays:like his scouring the cupboard for sweets.How he argues with the ‘American’ : “No it isn`t!”. How he pokes that small man in the head several times while he`s making out ,trying to get his attention,then says “why haven`tn you waved back at me when I waved at you?”
    At the Art museum :Ray is more fascinated in a painting that looks like a depiction of the end of the world, but more like a children`s painting (Tea pots,shoes,bunnies,birds,tents etc.) as opposed to Ken`s more mature outlook on things (sight seeing,reading ,watching black and white films.)

    Then there is the telephone conversation Ken and Harry has.Harry wants to know whether the ‘Boy likes’ Bruges,the sights ,the swans.He explains he loved it there when he was 7.And even when Yuri offered Harry dum-dum bullets.He held it like a sweet box and Harry took it.

    There is a profound message in this film about the respect these three guys have for children.But the sad part is most of the comedy isn`t there just for comedy sake for example ; when Harry and Ray agree upon how they will proceed with the shoot off.They make rules so that both of them understand how the game will work and Harry agrees to this because Harry who might be his brother knows him well enough.Ray`s mind isn`t developed normally.I don`t think it`s trauma caused by the assassination of the priest but perhaps being an orphan.Maybe Harry and Ray was in Bruges when Harry was 7 and something bad happened.Maybe they aren`1t siblings at all,Perhaps Ken and Harry are.

    But It still is very clear that Ray has a mind of child,If only his mannerism and attention span.He mostly thinks like an adult in some instances.His character isn`t metaphoric ,Ken and Harry struggle to understand each other view point`s regarding Ray`s mistake and his punishment…In the end it was a very sad film that out weighed the dark comedy we saw in the beginning.And it was a brilliant piece of writing.