Feb 10, 2008

In Bruges

I'm a fan of Martin Mcdonagh's Oscar winning short "Six Shooter", which I loved so much it actually inspired me to make my own humble short. And I really liked his play "The Lieutenant of Inishmore", but I am a bit disappointed by his first feature, In Bruges. I thought it would be smarter and funnier, particularly smarter. McDonagh does have a way with words, but it seems to have eluded him in this film, which works better as a concept. Maybe it would work better as a play, but as a film it feels half-baked. I see that he is referencing Waiting for Godot and he's playing with his usual mashup of violence and humor, and he is paying homage to old, masterful movies like Touch of Evil and Vertigo, but the whole thing feels really forced and rather soulless.
I am willing to suspend my disbelief and swallow that the wonderful Brendan Gleeson and the incredibly uneven Colin Farrell are hitmen on holiday, but why? They really seem to be the nicest chaps, with no edge of meanness. Lovable thugs who work for a fastidious thug, played rather maniacally, by Ralph Fiennes, whose performance over the phone is actually funnier than when he actually shows up. It is nice to see him in a comic role and sporting a perfect thuggish accent, but he is not believable either. And the actors are saddled with stupid lines, which is really surprising coming from Mr. McDonagh. Gleeson is divine as a hitman perfectly content to spend some downtime sightseeing. He revels in the calm. I love Brendan Gleeson and if there is a reason to see this movie, he is it. Farrell is all over the place, and trying really hard to be funny, which may not be entirely his fault. He is best when he feels guilty and dissolves into tears, but otherwise he mugs for the camera like there is no tomorrow.
And if there is a subplot involving a racist dwarf and obese Americans, you know the movie is aiming low.
Jeremie Renier, who has starred in the distinguished films of the Dardenne brothers, L'Enfant and La Promesse, has a bit part here. This always bothers me, that when the big foreign production comes to town, the best actors in that country end up playing stupid bit parts. Such is the pecking order.
Some American critics have vociferously objected to the violence, which is really beyond me, considering Hollywood is still churning out violent porn like Rambo. The violence is over the top in concept, as Farrell kills human beings that are taboo to kill. And this may be the point of the movie, that the principles of criminals are bogus, and killing anybody is wrong, period. But it's a point we expected Martin McDonagh to make with his accustomed panache, not all dumbed down.

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