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Hit man humor

Movies | In Bruges is very violent but manages to be very funny

Issue: "The Road to Cana," Feb. 23, 2008

You'll be sorry to hear that In Bruges is very, very funny. It shouldn't be, since the bloodletting in this film is frequently handled with serious attention given to its consequences, and yet it frequently manages to be horrifying and hilarious at the same time, only surrendering to silliness at the very end.

Though it doesn't stand with the best of playwright (and now screenwriter/director) Martin McDonagh's writing, his new film about a pair of low-rent hit men in hiding is a welcome relief in an increasingly trashy oeuvre: glib comedies about crime, written mostly for young men by people who don't appear to know much about the reality of violence.

The film's chief asset, besides the clever script, is the enormous, ursine Brendan Gleeson, an actor who never shouts when a whisper will do. He and Colin Farrell (surprisingly good, here) play Ken and Ray, respectively, a comedy team of gangsters who have accidentally inflicted some really terrible collateral damage and are holed up in Bruges, Belgium, until their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes, who should take more funny roles like this one) gives the all-clear.

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Like any enjoyable movie that stands accused of entertaining with violence, In Bruges contains violence that is not, in fact, that entertaining (McDonagh tries for that at the very end, and fails). The fun is in the talk between the improbably gentle, would-be highbrow Ken and the drug-loving, promiscuous lowlife Ray-two people who would starve trying to order a pizza together. "We shall strike a balance between culture and fun," intones Ken, as he frog-marches Ray around the gorgeous city. "Somehow, I believe, Ken, the balance will tip in favor of culture," snipes Ray.

In Bruges is slight, aimed at men in their 20s, and probably not much of a date movie, since it's rated R for a few extremely violent moments and the characters all swear like motherless sailors. If you're a fan of the Lethal Weapon films, though, you might enjoy a look at their oddly accented grandchild.


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