Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Oct 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Belgian Wafflers

belgianwafflersIrish gangsters re-examine their career choices in smart, violent, perversely funny ‘In Bruges’

In one respect, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is a marvelous travelogue for the medieval Old Town in the Belgian city of Bruges. The urge to join the migration of international tourists who will no doubt be flocking there in the wake of this film’s release may be irresistible. Just don’t forget to pack your bulletproof vest.

It’s not that Bruges is depicted in this film as any more violent or crime-ridden than any other city on the planet; indeed, it appears far more safe, civilized and tolerant than most. But the plot revolves around a pair of Irish hitmen sent to the city to chill out. They carry the potential for crime, violence, bloodshed, and mayhem around with them, the way Pig-Pen in the old Peanuts comic strip used to walk around under his own personal cloud of dirt.

There will, of course, be blood In Bruges—you know what they say about those who live by the sword—but that’s not all the movie is about. The best surprise about playwright McDonagh’s script is what a moving, tough-minded, cynical and effective morality play it turns out to be. At the same time, it’s a subversively funny black comedy of very bad manners, an increasingly absurdist riff on the gangster melodrama served up with some of the choicest deadpan dialogue you’ll hear at the movies all year.

After committing a contract murder in London that goes awry, novice young hitman Ray (Colin Farrell) and his mentor, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are sent to lie low in Bruges until the heat dies down. This is fine with the older, nattier, more culturally inclined Ken, who happily wallows in the art, architecture, churches and canal rides of “the most well-preserved medieval town in the whole of Belgium.” But for clueless urban tough Ray, permanently hunched inside his pea coat, unclear on the concept of sightseeing, two weeks in Bruges over Christmas is a season in Hell. “I grew up in Dublin,” he says. “If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

While they wait for their personal Godot—the crime boss they work for—to call them with further instructions, philosophical Ken soaks up more culture. Ray, meanwhile, stumbles upon a movie set shooting in the city, where he meets American actor, Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), a contentious dwarf, and attempts to make time with a pretty local girl, Chloe (Clémence Poésy), who sells drugs to film crews for a living.

But as the “fairy tale” setting of Bruges becomes more surreal, and the supporting cast more colorful (a self-righteous Canadian, a skinhead local tough, and the morbidly obese American tourists who have become de rigueur in European movies of late), the story’s deeper elements kick in. Surrounded by medieval altarpieces depicting Hell and Judgment Day (to say nothing of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch), Ray’s inner torment over an accidental tragedy that occurred during the commission of his crime begins boiling to the surface.

Ken, the consummate professional, is forced into a close encounter with his own dormant conscience when he’s given an assignment he doesn’t want and has to follow his own moral compass. And nothing gets any easier when their ruthless London boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) arrives in Bruges to personally take charge of his wayward employees.

The plot and its many delicious twists from this point on is too startling, sad, and/or absurdly hilarious by turns to reveal. And no mere outline can give the reader a sense of the epic range of the story’s tragic dimension, or the rich adrenalin pizzazz of its comedy. Kudos are due not only to McDonagh’s perfectly pitched script, but to outstanding performances by all three leads. Farrell’s cocky, ingratiating sad sack is a propulsive delight. Gleeson and Fiennes are insanely entertaining, especially when debating the spurious ethics of the criminal code by which they live. No movie this brutal and bloody should be this much fun, but even if you hate yourself in the morning, chances are you’ll enjoy your stay In Bruges.

IN BRUGES
***1/2 (out of four)
With Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh. A Focus Features release. Rated R. 110 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Santa Cruz Restaurant Week

A huge part of Santa Cruz Restaurant Week has always been about offering a great dining experience for an affordable price. For some locals, the $25 flat-rate cost has provided the opportunity (or the excuse!) to try new spots, and indulge in Santa Cruz fine dining in a way they might have thought too pricey before.

 

Scorpio Sun, New Moon Eclipse, Mercury Direct

The Sun enters Scorpio’s mysteries Thursday under a new moon and partial solar eclipse (something essential has come to an end, its purpose completed). In Scorpio we harbor secrets, are devoted to something deep, dark and hidden. Sometimes it’s ourselves. We can bring great suspect to our assessment of others. Scorpio is the scorpion, the serpent and the eagle—three levels of development. As the serpent we take shelter in our beliefs. Sometimes we bite (or sting). The eagle vanquishes old beliefs through its sharp intellect, soaring high in the air, seeking to understand through perspective. Understanding releases us from the bondage of fear. The eagle is like the mother soothing feelings of mistrust, offering protection. Knowledge does this, too.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Light Humor

College comedy questions a post-racial America in ‘Dear White People’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Back Porch

Austin Kaye on backyard dinners and why it’s his favorite time of year to be a chef

 

What’s the most outrageous situation you ever saw at a restaurant?

Damani Thomas, Santa Cruz, Chef/Owner

 

Wine Lust

The Spanish Godello grape, plus arancinis, tender butter lettuce and pork schnitzel at Soif

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher