Times Online (April 17, 2008)
Martin McDonagh’s characters don’t ring true, but the comedy is a riot
By James Christopher
A string of Irish stage plays dating back to 1996 has turned Martin
McDonagh into one of the most bankable young playwrights in the world.
He has a dazzling way with words, and his mantelpiece is groaning with
prizes. The irony is this: McDonagh doesn’t have a theatrical bone in
his body. He is a film nut, and therein lies the huge and lucrative
appeal of his plays. They have the pulse and energy of movies.
In Bruges is as comic and macabre as anything McDonagh has crafted for
the stage, but his debut feature film is far from novel. There are
shades of The Dumb Waiter, and alarming tints of Father Ted.
The ingredients are simple. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are chalk-and-cheese
hitmen who hole up in the medieval Belgian town when a job goes wrong in
London. Ralph Fiennes is a psychopathic marvel as their boss, who barks
orders from Essex down the phone at awkward intervals. A need to
terminate one of his henchmen is the poisonous tipping point of the
film. The killer has to murder his friend or die.
It’s morbid fun, but the chemistry is weak. Farrell’s shallow youth is
crushed by the parochial tweeness of Bruges. Gleeson revels in the
culture, the galleries and the churches. They don’t grapple with life’s
imponderables the way Tarantino’s dudes (John Travolta and Samuel L.
Jackson) did in Pulp Fiction.
McDonagh cleverly tortures his stars with secret demons, and Gleeson’s
and Farrell’s performances are not short of pathos. But their characters
occupy such different spaces – culturally, intellectually, emotionally
and even sexually when Clémence Poésy’s impossibly saucy drug dealer
pops up to give Farrell some rampant R&R – that they look preposterous
when trying to engage on any credible level. What’s left is a sort of
squidgy father-and-son bond.
That said, the incidental comedy is brilliant. The film is riddled with
ridiculous twists, slapstick violence and barmy cameos. McDonagh has
never knowingly let good taste interfere with a thoroughly offensive
joke. Jordan Prentice’s American midget is mercilessly thrown about from
one end of the film to the other. Lard-arsed Americans die of heart
attacks. A prissy antismoking couple are knocked clean out. Homosexual
skinheads are blinded. When all’s said and done, it’s a wonderfully
absurd film. McDonagh is never stuck for a brilliant kiss-off line. I
doubt he’ll ever be stuck for an audience either.
It's a darkly comic tale of a pair of hit men who hole up in Bruges after a difficult job in London. As they become
entangled with locals, tourists and a film shoot, their views on life and death get skewed.
Ray: Colin Farrell
Ken: Brendan Gleeson
Harry: Ralph Fiennes
Chloe: Clémence Poésy
Erik: Jérémie Renier
Directed by Martin McDonagh
Writing Credits: Martin McDonagh
Produced by Jeff Abberley, Julia Blackman, Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Tessa Ross, Ronaldo Vasconcellos
Original Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography by Eigil Bryld
Film Editing by Jon Gregory, Ian Seymour
Casting by Jina Jay
Production Design by Michael Carlin
Costume Design by Jany Temime