Sunday, May 24, 2009

Movie Musings: In Bruges

"In Bruges" is a black hole of a comedy. Two hitmen have to leave town (London) after screwing up a job to lay low in Bruges and wait for the boss to call. Ken (Brendon Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Ferrall) have very different reactions to the town. Ken finds himself drawn into the enchantment that is Bruges, one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. Ray is suffering from guilt and is restless and bored.

Eventually, Harry the boss calls (Ralph Fiennes) and then the trouble really starts. The script is funny, sad, and disturbing. The profanity in the film has been raised to an art form, especially with Ralph Fiennes' character. Bruges itself is shown off to gorgeous advantage. The film is violent and gory, and the characters show a tremendously flawed humanity.

The quote below made me laugh harder than I've laughed in a very long time. I was laughing so hard I had to keep stopping and rewinding this part. Ray (Ferrell) is in a bar hopped up on a gram of cocaine and goes to talk to Jimmy, an American dwarf in town for a film shoot. Jimmy happens to be accompanied by a good-looking prostitute named Denise.

Ray (looking down at Jimmy and Denise, very wide eyed, pupils dilated): Why didn't you wave hello to me today when I waved hello to you today?
Jimmy: I was on a very strong horse tranquilizer today; Wasn't waving hello to anybody. Except... maybe to a horse.
Ray: Huh? What are you talking about?
Jimmy: Just horseshit.
Ray: You from America?
Jimmy: Yeah. Don't hold it against me.
Ray (eyes getting wider): Well, that's for me to decide, isn't it?
Ray: [to Denise] You from America too?
Denise: No, I'm from Amsterdam.
Ray (scoffs): Amsterdam! Amsterdam's just a lot of bloody prostitutes, isn't it?
Denise: Yes, that's why I came to Bruges. Been trying to get a better price for my pussy here.
[Jimmy is sipping his beer, he nods knowingly]
Ray: Huh?
Ray: You two are weird. Would you like some cocaine?

The next scene where everyone is doing drugs includes Jimmy's cocaine fueled, politically incorrect comments about race relations. What makes this scene so funny is that Jimmy is an angry dwarf who smokes, lounges around with his shirt open, says the word "fuck" as much as the others (but not more than Ralph Fiennes' character), and has a streetwise weariness about him. As odd as this scene is Jimmy's character feels like a real person to me, and he belongs in this story world even if he was originally conceived is a caricature from a Bosch painting.

I can't stand Colin Ferrell but he does well here. Brendan Gleeson is wonderful as warm-hearted Ken, as is Ralph Fiennes' sociopath boss with an iron morality. I recommend it but you have been warned about the violence and relentless profanity.

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