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:: In Bruges

It’s the sharp, punchy script and coked up violence that make Martin McDonough’s cinematic debut ‘In Bruges’ feel a bit like a Coen Brothers film. The delights are in the detail. Originally written for stage, the film’s first act is centred on the absurdist banter of two Irish hit-men Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) awaiting orders in Bruges, Belgium’s best-preserved medieval town. There, about an hour from Brussels and a world away from the mean streets of London, mild-mannered Ken encourages his rookie colleague to pass time by taking in the sights. But Ray drags his feet like a spoilt seven-year-old with A.D.D; blind to the city’s beauty and whinging his way from church to church.

The clever, comic dialogue diverts the audience from asking why paid killers are cruising canals and abusing fat Americans on the Bruges tourist trail. While Ray’s vulnerability becomes apparent through his hot-headed out-bursts, the film’s character and plot development take the back seat to open-ended scenes hinged on witty wordplay and weird characters. Enter racist dwarf.

If you’re not a fan of potty-mouthed political incorrectness, then the film may have already lost you. Shame really, because it’s pretty good fun.

When Ray is out attempting to score a long-over-due shag with a mysterious local beauty, Ken finally receives orders from gangster boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). More sentimental and goofy than his bad-arse predecessors in Lock Stock or Sexy Beast, Harry is a welcome late arrival to the film. It is here that the bond between Ken and Ray is challenged and the guns come out; they are finally hit-men on a mission, not a holiday. We also delight is watching Fiennes play a cockney crook as convincingly as he plays a posh/ pious/ period gentleman. McDonough provides Harry with a bag of tricks and gags to spit out and shoot off, but confuses the audience with Harry’s guiding moral purpose. Rather than seeing Harry as a complex and principled bad –guy, we question why a bad-guy would ever do what he eventually does.

That feeling of doubt lingers as the credits roll and the ill-delivered seriousness of the film’s final scenes cloud the comedy of before. Not to worry, it was pointless banter anyway. In Bruges is as violent, sharp and silly as something the Coens can do, just not the right shade of black.