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Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in Bruges

Colin FarreIl and Brendan Gleeson "In Bruges"
A film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Macho guys blowing people away that elicits waves of sardonic laughter accompanied by music by Carter Burwell may cause you to think of the current, Oscar-nominated film, "No Country for Old Men." But whoa. We've got another movie with those ingredients as well: "In Bruges," by British director and screenwriter, Martin McDonagh.

Despite the good ol' boy bloodletting in "No Country," people laughed all through the screening I was at some weeks back, just like they did when I saw "In Bruges" this week. On balance, though, I'd say that "No Country" is a bit deeper in blood than "Bruges" is long on laughs.

By the way, neither is Bruges pronounced BROO-guhs nor is it just north of the Rio Grande. It has just one syllable: BROOZH, and is located in Belgium about an hour NW of Brussels. This historic port city received its charter in 1128 and was designated the European Capital of Culture in 2002.

Bruges is just a skip over the English Channel from London where two hit men in the film, Ray and Ken (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) have botched a whack job assigned by their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Harry has ordered Ray and Ken to go on the lam and cool their heels amongst all the medieval art and architecture in this beautiful Belgium city.

Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes
Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes

Conflict between the principals flares immediately. Ken loves the city. Ray describes it as a s--t hole, that is, after spouting myriad soundings of the f-word. But Ray is Irish, so all of his f-words have an 'oo' sound, not an 'uh' sound.

Ken is more agreeable to how life moves along and begins inhaling the essence of history in Bruges. Meanwhile, Ray looks for female companionship and a pint or three at the local pub. That's pronounced "poob."

Harry tells Ray and Ken to wait for his call soon to come from London, giving the movie too much time for us to get to know the pair's idiosyncrasies and finally enjoy the talents of Mr. Fiennes in character as a Harry whom no one could be too wild about. In fact, Fiennes' turn here may be as nasty as his Amon Goeth in "Schindler's List," but with a cockney accent.

"In Bruges" has other things in common with an earlier 2007 film called, "You Kill Me," which casts Ben Kingsley as an alcoholic hit man who screws-up a job and amusingly seeks 12-step help at a San Francisco AA chapter. Either film, I guess, might be described not as Guns and Roses but Guns and Laughter----with plenty of blood.

Making a film that combines blood, gore, violence, guilt, comical dialogue, drugs, dwarfs, art, architecture, romance and an action-packed thriller finale would be difficult for any seasoned filmmaker. But, when it's your first (as is the case with director/writer McDonagh) the project requires larger bites of irony than any audience can chew---then swallow.

Even though Farrell, Gleeson and Fiennes have a ball doing their parts, such an effort as "In Bruges" goes against just about all odds.

(Rated R for violence, drug use and f-word usage in either verb or gerund form.)

"In Bruges" preview.

"In Bruges" official site.
3/3/2008: Now playing in Tulsa.
Check Yahoo Movies  for Tulsa theaters & times.
Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net
Copyright © 2008, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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