In Bruges (2008) is more than simply the criminal code – honor among thieves – put into practice. It’s a tale of unexpected comradeship, the power of redemption and race-war loving dwarves. Frankly, it has everything!
Indeed, praise can only be showered on a film wherein one of the central characters is in hiding after the accidental shooting of a child yet becomes the one you root for and hope that he finds the salvation and peace that he craves.
Ray (Colin Farrell) is that man. Killing a child instead of a priest (which is a double-whammy of badness) he is forced to flee to Bruges, the capital of Belgium, under the escort of Ken (Brendan Gleeson); Ray’s mentor and partner.
For a time at least, it looks as if Ray could ride the heat out after all. Gleeson and Farrell slip into the old Irish patter together and play the act convincingly as if old friends. A testament to the skills of both. Particularly Gleeson who, Lake Placid aside, tends to act everybody else off the screen in seconds.
Ray hates Bruges (“Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”). But it doesn’t stop him brawling with a couple in a restaurant, enacting a brief romance and blinding somebody. All in a day’s work, right?
But just when you think it’s all plain sailing, the order comes in from the big boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes): Ken must kill Ray as penance for the child’s death. Sometimes even criminals shy away from their own. And so the chase begins. Ken, torn asunder by the conflict between humanity and professional duty, stews in his own soul. Can he kill his protégé?
In Bruges carries with it the shadow of some real dark humor. They encounter a dwarf with a cocaine habit who appears to have acquired a diploma from the Charlie Manson College of Helter Skelterism. Ray and Ken, coked-up and in the company of two prostitutes, decide to dispense with him the only way they know how:
Ray’s blossoming romance with Chloë (Clémence Poésy) is beset by the looming problem of Ray’s potentially inevitable death and Ken, the abrasive Irish rogue, pops up with what could just be one of the best insults in film history:
Ken: Harry, let’s face it. And I’m not being funny, I mean no disrespect, but you’re a cunt. You’re a cunt now, you’ve always been a cunt. And, the only thing that’s gonna change is that you’re gonna become an even bigger cunt. Maybe have some more cunt kids.
Harry: [furious] Leave my kids fucking out of it! What have they done? You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!
Ken: I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids.
Harry: Insulting my fucking kids?! That’s going overboard, mate!
Ken: I retracted it, didn’t I?! [quietly] Still leaves you a cunt…
Harry: Yeah, I fucking got that.
The final act of In Bruges is replete with a plethora of twists and turns. Who lives and dies? Well, that’s for you to find out. And hey, it’s probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to Belgium. Win-win all round.