Jordan does In Bruges

“I didn’t even know where Bruges was. It’s in Belgium”In Bruges

The Scoop: 2008 R, Directed by Martin McDonagh and starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes and Clémence Poésy.

Tagline: Shoot first. Sightsee later.

Summary Capsule: Two Irishmen walk into a small medieval Belgian town…

Jordan’s Rating: A great trip, though this wasn’t mentioned in the guidebook!

Jordan’s Review: It should be seen as a universal truth that sometimes movie posters lie to you. Of course, lie is might not be the best word to use, but certainly they can aim to skewer the perception of the casual passer-by in an often successful attempt to bring attract those that might be sitting on the fence.

This comes as no shock and we should expect the huge amount of manipulation that comes with advertising and publicity gimmicks in general – we each may have even built up a certain level of resistance to this to warn us away from the likes of suspicious looking breakfast cereals and substandard film prospects.

The surprise comes, not when the powers that be try to polish up a surefire stinker, but when good quality output is marketed in such a way that it risks alienating the intended audience and attracting others that might not enjoy the end result anyway.

I picked up this movie without particularly paying any attention to the associated artwork and this could have led to any of the following had I decided to do so before viewing: a) a very strong case of the hiccups, brought on by the shock of having my low expectations shattered like a vase in a bull friendly china shop  b) It could have delayed the scheduled start time by 5 minutes as I may have been inspired to prepare some ice-cream c) Nothing at all. In the event,no heed was paid and we shall never know what influence one surreptitious glance might have had on humanity.

As you have seen, the cover consists of three men in heavy enforcer style coats, standing on the cobbled streets, overlooking a canal of an ancient market town. One looks solemn and businesslike, another is scratching his head quizzically with a firearm and the central character seems nervous. He holds a gun, tucked away in one hand and an ice cream in the other. There is a swan flapping in the middle ground and the day is slightly overcast with a promising patch of blue sky. The title matches the ice cream in bold letters, and a ‘hand written’ style subtitle informs that Bruges is in Belgium. “Shoot first. Sight-see later”.

I have been considering what kind of movie I would expect this to be, if I had only seen the Poster and ultimately, it seems that it would have to be a light-weight crime caper with a few gags, wise-cracks, guns and a swan to mix things up a bit. Now, without further ado, let’s have a look at the actual film and see what we find:

This is a tale of two Irishmen. We start with Ray (Colin Farrell), who is in the very early stages of a promising career as a hit-man and looking to make his mark. He is joined by Ken, his partner and elder statesman in this grimy and thankless business. The two find themselves in in their current situation, following a grave mishap by Ray on his first job. The heat is on and they have been directed by their boss to hide out in Bruges, to keep low until he can decide how best to proceed.

Ray does not take kindly to finding himself in Bruges, much preferring the bustle of his native Dublin to the cobbled tranquility offered at hand. In contrast, Ken embraces the cultural abundance and is happy to wait as long as it takes for further directions.

The two actors have a great chemistry together, with Farrells amusing petulance and over-the-top animosity to the City being perfectly twinned with Gleeson’s (strained) paternal tolerance and obvious concern for his partner. Together, they visit art galleries and frequent bars and experience the City as a whole, with Ray providing heartfelt disdain for all he sees and a walking commentary that would certainly not make it into a travel guidebook.

Lording it over our two loveable grunts is Harry Waters (Ralph Fienes), who is just a bit of a madman. You could say that he isn’t so much ‘away with the fairies’, as having abandoned the family and taken the fairies with him on an all expenses paid one-way trip to Bat Country, leaving behind only an unfinished self portrait, painted with toothpaste and an IOU for 2kgs of hamster food.

He is rarely seen, but his presence is truly felt and his character is given a deliciously dark, though hilarious depth, especially as he reveals his feelings for Bruges, which is the only place he has ever felt happiness, having visited as a child. He, leaps from charming, to childish, to principled mobster and finally to the raging embodiment of pure, un-vented fury and often back again within a few breaths. And do not get me wrong, he is very, very funny and just about steals the entire movie.

On their travels around town, the two bump into a varied collection of tourists and shady types, such as a troubled dwarf actor called Jimmy, who is in town making a movie whilst simultaneously trying to fit in a journey to a drug fueled oblivion.

As it becomes clear why Ray is in his position and what ghosts plague him, we are invited to dig to the root of his malaise. In between darkly comical scenes, the two hit-men ponder the morality of their chosen profession and discuss the potential theological implications of the road they have taken. These scenes, though thought provoking, have a very handy way of weaving themselves back into the comical at a moments notice, though the overall feel rarely deviates from an amiable take on melancholy.

Along the way, Ray has his mind taken away from his demons by Chloe (Clémence Poésy), a quirky local girl who supplies Jimmy with horse tranquilizers (don’t ask) and to whom he falls in love. Despite their chosen professions at the very fringe of society, they both spend an entertaining evening trying to have a normal date, though by and large failing. Before long, the storm clouds begin to gather and they all spend a wild night with Jimmy and his harem, as almost everyone and everything begins to unravel.

I don’t really want to get into the crescendo of retribution that ends this picture (maybe the tagline should have read “Sightsee first. Shoot later”), but fatefully Harry gets to revisit his childhood paradise and the alternating dark humour and introspection keeps us amused and entertained as one would hope to be.

Ultimately, if you like your comedies nice and dark, I couldn’t give you a stronger recommendation and In Bruge certainly has enough magical quotes and brooding charm to beg re-visiting.

In Bruges Scene

“Honestly, I have no idea how you get such great definition with your eyebrows”


  •  Naturally, this movies was filmed almost entirely on location, in Bruges!
  • As the movie takes place around the festive season, decorations were kept up as late as March in certain sections of the town to assist with filming.
  • This movie has four actors who also appeared together in the Harry Potter series – Brendan Gleeson (“Mad-Eye” Moody), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour) as well as Ciaran Hinds (Aberforth Dumbledore).

Groovy Quotes:

Ken: Coming up?
Ray: What’s up there?
Ken: The view.
Ray: The view of what? The view of down here? I can see that down here.
Ken: Ray, you are about the worst tourist in the whole world.
Harry: I’m sorry for calling you an inanimate object. I was upset.
Ray: What am I gonna do, Ken? What am I gonna do?
Ken: Just keep movin’. Keep on movin’. Try not to think about it. Learn a new language, maybe?
Ray: Sure. I can hardly do English.
Ray: I don’t hit women. I’d never hit a woman, Chloë! I hit a woman who was trying to hit me with a bottle! That’s different, that’s self defense, isn’t it? Or a woman who did karate. I’d never hit a woman generally, Chloë. Don’t think that. God, you’re pretty.
Ken: [standing up to leave and picking up his coat] Two manky hookers and a racist dwarf. I think I’m heading home.
Ray: There’s a Christmas tree somewhere in London with a bunch of presents underneath it that’ll never be opened. And I thought, if I survive all of this, I’d go to that house, apologize to the mother there, and accept whatever punishment she chose for me. Prison… death… didn’t matter. Because at least in prison and at least in death, you know, I wouldn’t be in f***** Bruges.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Seven Psychopaths
  • Intermission
  • Snatch


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