In Bruges is the first feature from Martin McDonagh, and it was definitely was the film that, similar to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, helped to blow up a new and unique cinematic voice. McDonagh had made a name for himself already as a theatrical playwright, but he had a healthy disdain for the theatre world’s elitism and a desire to work in film. He had also won an Oscar for his short, Six Shooter, previous to In Bruges, which gave him enough credibility to get a decent budget for a film and got the project off the ground.
For those who haven’t seen it, In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brandon Gleeson as Ray and Ken, two hit men. Their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), tells them to go to Bruges to hide out and wait for instructions for their next hit. Ken loves the city, the history, the food, while Ray is bored out of his mind and just wants to go to the pub. They meet a variety of strange characters, including a racist dwarf (Jordan Prentice) and a Belgian production assistant. And then the story goes off in some great and unexpected directions…
The script, also by McDonagh, is absolutely hilarious. There is lots of very memorable dialogue. McDonagh wears his influences on his sleeve, but with a unique Irish take on them. He’s obviously a Tarantino fan, and there’s influence from David Mamet and Harold Pinter as well (Pinter wrote a similar play.) But it’s in no way a rip-off of anyone else’s work.
Although most people would probably say In Bruges is McDonagh’s best film, it’s not my favourite, despite the reference to Time Bandits. And yes, Gilliam likes McDonagh’s work as well. Nevertheless, if you haven’t seen it—it did incredibly well on DVD but there must be someone out there who’s missed it—you’re in for one of the very best black comedies of recent years. If you like it, go on to check out Seven Psychopaths, probably my favourite, although McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is also great.
I think it’s also safe to say that the film really relaunched Farrell’s career, as at that point he had done some good work, but had gotten stuck in some not very interesting Hollywood movies. They weren’t terrible films, but he really needed something that brought out his character actor side and showed the world that he had more to him. After In Bruges, Farrell’s been able to be a bit pickier with his roles, although of course he does the occasional blockbuster. If it wasn’t for In Bruges, he probably wouldn’t have gotten The Lobster, for example, a real departure from his past parts. He’s a good actor with a pretty big range, so it’s nice to see Farrell being taken more seriously, and having a chance to appear in more auteur-led films.
Second Sight has released a very nice limited-edition version of In Bruges. It includes Six Shooter as well (as does the package for Three Billboards), which also stars Gleeson. The extras from the previous Universal release—a featurette, deleted scenes and gag reel—are augmented by two featurettes that were not on the previous British release, plus newly filmed interviews with director of photography Eigil Bryld, editor Jon Gregory, production designer Michael Carlin, and Eric Godon, who plays boss Harry’s local contact, Yuri.