In Bruges (3/10)
by Tony Medley
There is an axiom that I
have developed that when the Production Notes for a movie are so well
written that they make the reader anxious to see the movie, the movie
turns out to be dreck. The Production Notes for this film are as good as
any I’ve read. Guess how much I loved the movie.
Exacerbating that, there
was a jerky critic at my screening who laughed out loud every time
someone uttered a line. I don’t think that studios hire shills for small
screenings like this, so maybe this guy was just a guy without a sense
of humor of his own who had been lulled in by the Notes and programmed
to laugh every time someone spoke.
This is another in a line
of silly Hollywood films about sensitive, likeable hit men. Pierce
Brosnan made a terrific film (The Matador, 2005) on this subject,
but that was the exception that proves the rule. Hit men are, by
definition, psychopaths. Anyone who can kill someone else for money
lacks human emotion and compassion. But the guys in this film, Ray
(Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are just ordinary chaps with
ordinary feelings who just happen to kill people they don’t know for
money. Characters like this, created by clueless writers like Martin
McDonagh, who also directed, are grotesquely unrealistic. Farrell
duplicates his neurotic performance in Cassandra’s Dream, only
it’s not nearly as appealing. I hope Colin hasn’t fallen in love with
that character. Bogey and Gable could be the same character in film
after film and it was appealing. But when Bogey became neurotic in “The
Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948) and “The Caine Mutiny” (1954), he at
least let six years pass between the two performances. Twice in one year
is too much, Colin.
In this foolish film, Ken
and Ray have performed a hit and are ordered to run away to Bruges, in
Belgium, to hide out for awhile. Poor Ray can’t get it out of his mind
that he hit a little boy, so he’s neurotic about it. Ken tries to be a
big brother to Ray, but their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) has other
McDonagh is in love with
his directing, so he has scene after scene where the camera zeroes in on
Ray or Ken as they think. I’m not talking about a reaction shot here.
I’m talking about 15-20 seconds watching them think. And it’s not just
once or twice. The first hour is full of these shots. Staying awake
during the first hour requires superhuman stamina, so slow and
self-indulgent is it. The film picks up a little in the last 53 minutes,
but my watch took another beating as I was constantly looking at it
while I endured this.
This is apparently intended
to be a comedy, which is why the jerk in my screening was laughing out
loud every minute or so. I didn’t find it funny. It never occurred to me
to laugh, or chuckle, or smile.
This thing is full of
Hollywood plot holes. Just one of which is when Ray gets on a train to
run away from Bruges. Nobody knows he’s on the train but Ken; NOBODY!
Despite this, a few minutes later he’s arrested for his specific crime
by a policeman, who asks, “Are you Irish?” How the policeman could have
known he was on a train, and that specific train, is beyond conjecture.
Worse, right there with the policeman, on the train, are his accusers!
“Yeah, that’s the guy,” they proclaim. I ask you, how many policemen
take witnesses and accusers with them when they are on the trail of a
criminal? Does zero sound about right? But not in a McDonagh movie,
apparently. Whatever he needs to fit the story is what he’ll put in.
Another plot hole occurs
when a guy gets shot in the carotid artery. Hey, not to worry! The guy
still has enough blood and energy left to climb up a bunch of steps and
jump out of a window 250 feet high. After he lands on his head,
squishing on the ground like a tomato, he still can talk and give
instructions before he says, “I think I’m going to die now.”
On the positive side, it is
filmed on location in Bruges, which is the most well-preserved medieval
city in all of Belgium. The sites are beautiful but I wasn’t blown away
by the cinematography. I think they dropped the ball here, because it’s
not a paean to the city as “The Sound of Music” (1965) was to Salzburg,
which might have given it a little saving grace. Alas, ‘twas not to be.
January 18, 2008