Sunday 7 December 2008

In Bruges

Martin McDonough is another writer I am aware of from the theatre. He writes the kind of dialogue that other writers dream of and most actors would kill to get their hands on. I saw a certain David Tennant in the National Theatre's production of The Pillowman a few years ago and was just amazed that this sparky, inventive play all about storytelling had been rejected previously by both the RSC and Royal Court. After winning an Oscar with his short film debut 'Six Shooter' it was always going to be interesting to see what he created with his first feature. Happily it is an off-beat comedy thriller set in one of Europe's best preserved medieval cities. Obviously.

When McDonough took a trip to Bruges he walked its cobbled streets and marvelled at the gothic architecture, the calm waterways populated by swans and found himself simultaneously bored stiff by it all. From that point he split his experience into two characters: Ken (the always brilliant Brendan Gleeson) who falls for Bruges, and Ray (the surprisingly good Colin Farrell) who thinks it's a 'shithole', both of them hitmen hiding out after a bungled shooting. As the two of them play at being tourists McDonough gives full rein to his skills, the profanity as free-flowing as the 'gay beer' and the two very different men sparking off each other. There's a chance at romance for Ray but a phone call from their boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes trying his best to do a Ben Kingsley) changes everything and when the man himself turns up in Bruges the cobbled streets play host to a very modern thriller.

There are drugs, prostitutes and a rascist American dwarf actor to help the quirky quotient but it's the dialogue which really makes the film. We are allowed to observe the humanity and fragility of men for whom killing is a job, and also of course the ideas of honour and proper conduct which govern their work and relationships. McDonough also makes a fine feature of the city itself, the DVD extras even allow you to take a boat trip on its canals. You can also see a montage of the film's swearing as well as the usual gag-reel and deleted scenes.But the main feature certainly made me giggle like I haven't for a while.


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