In Bruges - DVD Review

'think of it as re-inventing the wheel as a triangle: sure it’s completely different, but it just doesn’t work as well'

In Bruges is not for everyone’ wrote Empire’s Damon Wise earlier this year, ‘like its characters, it’s unruly, foul-mouthed and has a weird sense of humour and no concept of good behaviour.’ When I sat down to watch the film recently I knew within minutes he was right. By the time it finished I knew I was definitively one of the people it was not for.

If you boil it down to its essences In Bruges revolves around a simple premise (hit goes wrong) and a simple end (wrongs get righted in various nefarious and relatively surprising ways). So far so good then, I mean if we were to do this to every film The Godfather could be reduced to ‘son starts in front of desk and ends behind it’ – it’s not exactly a crime to have a plot that can be converted into a single, none-descript phrase.

The problem for me is what In Bruges puts in between these two happenings. Take Colin Farrell’s Ray. He’s rude, somewhat obnoxious and behaves like a spoilt kid who’s been taken to the fairground too many times. But he’s also oddly charming, quite witty and bravely self-effacing. Having said that he’s not enough of any of these things to justifiably like him.

Then take Ralph Fiennes’ Harry. The comparisons with Ben Kingsley’s role in Sexy Beast are apt and Director Martin McDonagh has obviously drawn on Beckett’s Waiting For Godot as well. But when we meet him he’s not quite menacing enough, in fact, he’s actually rather funny and his values aren’t half as twisted as we may initially imagine.

I’d throw in Brendan Gleeson’s Ken as well but his is a character that’s just too likeable to say anything bad about.

The problem that comes from all this is that none of these characters, in what is, at it’s core also a four man character piece (the other man being Jordan Prentice as Jimmy) meets the end that you particularly want them to or that the film justifies in its creation of their personas.

Now maybe (just maybe) I’m missing the point. Maybe McDonagh’s intention with this film was to re-invent the hitman-hit-gone-wrong story arc and promote something a bit fresher. And if it was then I’d be all for it, it’s always nice to see a new take on something old and tired. But if, in producing this new take, you sacrifice good story, sound character development and justifiable plot arcs then you kind of miss the point yourself. Think of it as re-inventing the wheel as a triangle: sure it’s completely different, but it just doesn’t work as well.

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