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Colin Farrell
Ralph Fiennes
Brendan Gleeson
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Running Time
107 minutes

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In Bruges
Visit beautiful Belgium for waffles, beer and hitmen

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Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Gleeson), two foul-mouthed Irish hitmen, lie low in the medieval Belgian town of Bruges to evade the police after a botched job back home. While awaiting instructions from their furious boss Harry (Fiennes), Ken braces himself for the worst...

In Bruges
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In Bruges is not for everyone. Like its characters, it’s unruly, foul-mouthed and has a weird sense of humour and no concept of good behaviour. But even if those caveats whet your appetite, there’s another hurdle to overcome: the dread phrase “British gangster movie”. In America, Martin McDonagh’s genre-stretching film already made a cautious bow at the box office, alienating some higher-brow critics who sniffed at its wayward and irresponsible tone but finding a surprising amount of support from grassroots cinemagoers, despite a very limited release.

It’s a strange film. Going into it, there are all kinds of questions you might be asking yourself - isn’t this just Sexy Beast meets Pulp Fiction? Isn’t Brendan Gleeson a bit above this kind of thing? What is Colin Farrell famous for anyway? - but, coming out, all that remains are the positives. In fact, one online review - posted on by user “Kristina” - accidentally nails its perverse charm while trying to slam it. “Bad acting, unlikeable and underdeveloped characters, bizarre and stupid situations, too much blood, ridiculous ending,” she raged. But it wasn’t all bad news. “My husband and I were both disappointed in this movie,” she concluded, “but the one good thing about it was that we learned something about Bruges and would like to visit there someday.”

This barbed compliment would no doubt amuse writer-director McDonagh, and, more to the point, sounds like something one of his characters might say. Once you’ve seen the film (and you must, even if just to disagree with this very, very positive review) hopefully it’ll amuse you too, thinking of the individual who fidgeted and tutted through 100 minutes of swearing, violence and profane epistemology - not to mention rampant class-A drug and dwarf abuse - and after all that still fancied a nice city break. It’s fittingly bathetic too, because, though it superficially takes place in the same cartoon underworld as Lock, Stock and its offspring, In Bruges has more in common with a Mike Leigh film than any of Guy Ritchie’s.

Part of the reason for this is that McDonagh’s background, like Leigh’s, is in theatre, which explains both In Bruges’ weakness and strengths. Like a good stage play, McDonagh’s film explores character through dialogue as well as action, and though this makes it somewhat static - even taking into consideration its frenzied, blood-spattered showdown - In Bruges is able to sneak in some heavyweight questions under the radar.

Though it speaks of contract-killing and cocaine-dealing, scoring and whoring, this surprisingly thoughtful film leaves plenty of ideas to be mulled over later, particularly those involving notions of audience identification. In Bruges is a film no Hollywood studio would ever make; it’s a film in which not one single foregrounded character - even the duplicitous love interest (the otherwise adorable Poésy) - is worthy of our sympathy, but by its enigmatic ending it has us, if not cheering them on, then definitely accepting them, and maybe even feeling genuine, if misplaced, affection for them.

The key line arrives a little way into the movie. Ray and Ken have arrived in Bruges and, while Ken is enjoying the majesty of the local architecture, Ray is behaving like a petulant teen. “If I’d grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me,” he sulks. “But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.” Though funny, this kind of banter isn’t exactly new in the general field of gangster movies, let alone the UK kind or its rarefied fish-out-of-water subgenre (see - or rather don’t - the Brighton-set Circus). However, when Ray looks across the town’s cobbled courtyard, where a camera crew is shooting, the film gets a much-needed jolt. Diverting from the smart-arse blueprint, Ray suddenly becomes a child again, his face melting with delight. “They’re filming midgets!” he squeals.

Here, we enter the first of the film’s carefully laid minefields. The politics of the vertically challenged are as complex as they’ve ever been, so without wishing to offend people of size, we’ll stick with the film’s terminology for now (although Ray is told that “midgets” prefer the word “dwarf”). Jimmy, the “little fella” being filmed - an incredibly game Jordan Prentice, whose early starring role in Howard The Duck (1986) suggests that he may actually be physically incapable of embarrassment - is a curveball thrown so elegantly by McDonagh that his fall from grace coincides smoothly with our growing fondness for Ray and Ken. During the film’s hilarious lads’-night-out scene, it takes us a while to realise that Jimmy, even to those who saw Peter Dinklage’s unsentimental performance in The Station Agent, isn’t just some afflicted victim to be pitied, he’s a flesh-and-blood guy like everyone else. And he’s a total arse.

Of the central pair, at first we’re drawn to the avuncular Ken rather than the goofy, irritating Ray. But once his terrible secret is revealed, Ray suddenly seems more vulnerable, perhaps even more romantic, than his thug shell suggests. It’s partly in the writing, but more importantly it’s in Colin Farrell’s sad, scared eyes, in a performance that reminds us that he actually hasn’t really had a chance to do much of this kind of thing over the past eight years or so. He’s joined armies and led them, played US cops and robbers, but with the exception of 2003’s Intermission he hasn’t done a human comedy, let alone the black kind, and the results here suggest he ought to do quite a bit more.

But Farrell isn’t carrying this engagingly digressive caper alone, and Gleeson makes the perfect foil, simultaneously despairing of, and caring for, his troubled, trigger-happy sidekick. While Farrell fits the stereotypical profile of the hip young gunslinger, Gleeson is the very antithesis, but just when you’re getting used to this offbeat casting, McDonagh plays his trump card. If you haven’t seen Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, the payoff will be more effective, but even if you have, Ralph Fiennes’ performance as grouchy crime boss Harry is still something to be savoured. With a Peter Cook drawl and dressed in Essex slacks and slip-ons, Harry is the true snake amid this already unsavoury ensemble, phoning Ken with his secret mission in Bruges while Ray is supposedly in the toilet (“Is he having a poo or a wee?” the oily Harry rather creepily asks).

With its three protagonists in place, In Bruges begins its frantic final act, which is where some of its artfully packed contents start to spill out, and the simple pleasures of its character studies give way to overexcited intrigue, tragedy and an inevitable climactic shoot-out. Still, this is a minor gripe about a film which takes a genre that shouldn’t be allowed any more, never mind encouraged, and fashions something provocative and original in its thinking.

Despite some deliberate nods to medieval theosophy, and a coda that’s more arthouse than grindhouse, In Bruges isn’t exactly Samuel Beckett’s Get Carter - let’s face it, if Samuel Beckett had written Get Carter, Carter wouldn’t have turned up, would he? But to fill that existential gap, both literally and figuratively, this savvy, punk-rock pistol opera will do very nicely indeed.

With In Bruges, the British gangster movie gets a Croydon facelift. It may not be new, but it’s a wonderfully fresh take on a familiar genre: fucked-up, far-out and very, very funny.

Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for In Bruges
Empire Star Rating


L: Gimli The Dwarf L: dracovir Totally loved it.  Well scripted, well acted, well paced.  Everyone did their job in service to the story, no scene-stealing or scenery-chewing (which I half expected after seeing the trailer), some genuinely funny humor with some strong human characters.  I cannot find any real fault in the film.  Totally offbeat and excellent.  It's great that someone has the guts to show some everyday un-pc humour in a film.  The non-PC j... More

Posted by El Becks at 18:07, 14 October 2008 | Report This Post

loved it, i always though farrell had got too big too soon after phonebooth, here he stars in a smaller movie and blows us away. stay away from the blockbusters for a while colin and we're love ya for it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by anakin73 at 11:35, 28 September 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

Farrell was great and Fiennes showed he can add a touch a fun to his serious image.   But its Gleeson who always makes a film ,He is just ace as the Wolrd weary Hitman  who just wants to see the sights.   It would be nice if he got more lead roles like The General and this but whos complaining when the film is this good 8.5/10 ... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 13:12, 17 September 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

L: Magenta L: surveyofsociety 's performance didn't surprise me one biteen all of his films from Ordinary Decent Criminal to Miami Vice and I always thought he was a brilliant actor. Them tabloid years that he indulged in and had his agent cook up did him more harm than good with regard his credibility but hey it got him parts and money! He was the best thing about Cassandra's Dream and I'm curious to see this new one with Ed Norton. Also he's just finished 2 films this year -... More

Posted by Sad Professor at 04:14, 16 September 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

L: surveyofsociety 's performance didn't surprise me one biteen all of his films from Ordinary Decent Criminal to Miami Vice and I always thought he was a brilliant actor. Them tabloid years that he indulged in and had his agent cook up did him more harm than good with regard his credibility but hey it got him parts and money! He was the best thing about Cassandra's Dream and I'm curious to see this new one with Ed Norton. Also he's just finished 2 films this year - Triage about a ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Magenta at 17:07, 15 September 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

Farrell's performance didn't surprise me one bit. I'd seen all of his films from Ordinary Decent Criminal to Miami Vice and I always thought he was a brilliant actor. Them tabloid years that he indulged in and had his agent cook up did him more harm than good with regard his credibility but hey it got him parts and money!   He was the best thing about Cassandra's Dream and I'm curious to see this new one with Ed Norton. Also he's just finished 2 films this year - Triage about a trou... More

Posted by Sad Professor at 16:51, 15 September 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

i love this film about 300 times funnier than i expected. "your an inanimate FUCKING object" must be the best insult ever ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RedCandle at 16:20, 15 September 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

es is in my opinion one of the best films out this year. Its different to other films ive seen recently in that its not afraid to pull any punches in the political correctness area. At all. This is what makes In Bruges such an enjoyable film, as the foul mouthed charaters make the swearing  and violence very funny. Colin Farrell does well as the troubled hitman Ray, as does Brandon Gleesons portrayal of Ken who although he kills people, happens to be a nice guy. My favourite... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dapper Dan Man at 16:10, 15 September 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges - Brilliant

An offbeat thriller with a vicious streak of black humour, making for a slightly uneven but very entertaining watch. Farrell, Gleeson and Fiennes are all on top form and whilst the comedy and violence don't always sit comfortably together, this is still refreshingly un-PC and well worth catching up with. 8/10 ... More

Posted by MOTH at 09:27, 15 September 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges - Brilliant

Saw In Bruges last night and loved it! A total surprise because it got patchy reviews, so I considered it a 'have a punt' movie…and as a confirmed Farrel-phobe I wasn't expecting much. Farrel, though, was by far the best character, got all the best lines and made the film – and I NEVER thought I'd say that. It was described as Father Ted with guns earlier in this post, which I thought was pretty apt.   The only thing I'd didn't like was the ending. It seemed too neat (ie: what ha... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rupert303 at 20:04, 18 August 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges - Brilliant

Watched this again on DVD this weekend, forgot just how good it is, sure to be in my top 10 at the end of the year and I think its rewatchability factor will be pretty high. My girlfriend really enjoyed it too. I especially love the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy that Martin McDonagh strikes with this also. ... More

Posted by badassmofo at 12:05, 18 August 2008 | Report This Post

In Bruges - Brilliant

Cracking Film. Watched it over the Weekend. Loved Farrell and Gleeson Bouncing off other. Loved the Park Scene. Farrell Should deffinately do more like this. Well worth a watch. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by livewire at 11:22, 18 August 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Overrated

L: jace007 want a kickass flick that doesn't leave a bitter taste in the mouth, go and watch NEVER BACK DOWNast it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is. sm=happy07.gif] Just made my day. ... More

Posted by Mr Underhill at 22:19, 16 August 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Overrated

It's a brilliant film, right up my alley.  The comedy moments are surreal yet not ridiculous and I imagine I'll be quoting it forever.   Brendan Gleeson is, as always, fantastic however Colin Farrell is the standout.  His layered portrayal of Ray - a man who is most of the time a child in adult's clothes and at other times a victim of horrific inner demons - is masterful.  To be honest it's a performance I didn't believe Farrell had in him, now we know what Kevin Spacey ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Vito_Andolini at 08:12, 15 August 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Overrated

"i do want him dead I want him fackin crucified but it still doesn't change the fact that he stitched you up like a blind fackin gay boy does it?" that, was ] good! been meaning to watch it for a while, had no idea what it was about and yeah, fucking great.. ... More

Posted by maffew at 19:25, 14 August 2008 | Report This Post

Funny But With A Nasty Ending.

In Bruges is a very rude, foul-mouthed, film with deep emotion and a little bit of history. There were some funny scenes that can make you laugh out loud, you can also feel some kind of affection to the two hitmen played by the brilliant Brendan Gleeson and the excellent Colin Farrell who is back to his best ever and he is back with a good kick. It's good to have this talented actor in the movies again after all he went through, I can't wait to see many more of his films in the future. The only ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 10:21, 14 August 2008 | Report This Post

best film this year (until Bond) probably

Ohhh how lovely to go and see a film like this. a proper comedy that makes you laugh (even when you know you shouldn't). Best of all I knew nothing at all about it when I paid for ticket. It's like Withnail and I all those years ago. A film you really can love. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by andy bark at 20:45, 13 August 2008 | Report This Post

Very Good

Great Writing, Directing and acting. I really enjoyed it, especially Brendan Gleesons perfromance. I highly recommend it :). ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PaulJohn at 21:49, 11 August 2008 | Report This Post

Brilliant F***in Bruges

Loved this movie. Funny, profane, and profound. The way Ferrell treats tourists is how we all have secreted always wanted to. Gleeson and Fiennes deserve Oscar nominations. Funny and exciting. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 00:01, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

saw this when it first came out and again recently. quality movie. i thought it was brilliantly dark and funny. the language used is everyday normal language. people do swear that much in real life, that includes the c*nt word. so many funny scenes. i have to say the bit with the americans and the tower had me pissing myself laughing. excellant cast. brendan gleeson is one of the most underrated actors of his generation. colin farrell was excellant and fiennes looked like he was having the time... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by audidiesel at 00:50, 08 June 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

Terrific little film. Gleeson's always good value but the real delights were seeing Farrell finally raise his game back up to "Tigerland" levels, and Fiennes actually having lots of fun in his role - he can be SO serious. I really liked how un-PC it is - not many films dare to show dead kids these days - and how the banter flew as quickly as the violence.   And having visited Bruges several times, I can quite categorically state that it is anything but a shithole. ... More

Posted by RJNeb2 at 12:22, 20 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE: In Bruges

Just seen this now, after being released an age ago, it seems. Very funny and surprisingly emotional, Farrell is on top form and Gleeson as Ken is an avuncular uncle figure/mentor/friend to Farrell's troubled Ray. The ending is surprisingly touching and pulls no punches about what it wants to say. The scene with the 'Americans' in the restaurant was particularly funny, or Ray dodging the obese American chasing him for calling him an elephant. 4/5. ... More

Posted by Larry of Arabia at 18:31, 16 May 2008 | Report This Post


This film is brilliant. You laugh at things you shouldn't really laugh at but that's half the point really. The characters are just that - characters! Especially Farrell who is excellent and really pulls off the petulant child act (loved the scuffing of his feet in the church). The rest of the cast is great as well and Fiennes plays the (biggest) villian of the piece perfectly ("What do you mean, it's 'not his thing'!" in reference to Ray's dislike of Bruge before embarking on a swear ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trueborndjross at 13:14, 01 May 2008 | Report This Post

Sick, dark & deeply twisted..... much that I may go see it again. Seriously, for a debut the director has managed to combine a cracking, original story with 3 very fine british actors & put them up against the most unlikely setting. Loved the dwarf too! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by STARCHILE at 10:50, 01 May 2008 | Report This Post

Didn't really appeal to me but a 4 star review in empire and a cineworld unlimited pass meant I thought I may as well give it a go and I'm glad I did. Colin Farrell was excellent and there lots of laugh-out-loud moments but these were tempered by the beautifully acted emotional scenes by both lead actors. Thought the final scenes and particularly the ending were fantastic; overall I loved it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by captain jack harknes at 08:57, 01 May 2008 | Report This Post

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