In Bruges – 5 stars

Writer/director Martin McDonagh’s first feature is assured, intelligent, and deviously funny.  Two Brit hitmen, Ken and Ray (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell) are exiled to Bruges in Belgium by their crime boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) after Farrell cocks up his first job (a priest) and accidentally kills an altar boy.  What starts as a languorous wait, with Gleeson fascinated by the history of the town and Farrell bored to tears, becomes tense and edgy after Gleeson is given his next assignment (guess who?) and Farrell becomes more and more despondent over what he has done.  The duo sightsee, drink, do drugs and discuss morality, fate, death, religion, Americans, beer and various and sundry other topics until Fiennes comes to town to force the action.

The three leads are all very good.  Fiennes is a brutal yet charming Cockney, and Gleeson is a stoic solider on the brink of a moral epiphany.  But Farrell’s frenetic, comic-yet-tortured turn is the engine.  He’s barely a man, he’s killed a child, and he is denied any peace, having been placed in “bloody Bruges.”

A taste —

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