In Bruges

I don't care how you pronounce the Belgian city in the title. And I don't care how many prissy film critics complain that playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh, 37, doesn't yet know his way around a camera. In Bruges is literate, lively cinema — a bit of all right in a sea of tongue-tied tinseltown garbage. Those who know McDonagh's great Irish plays, such as The Pillowman, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, won't be surprised by his blend of brutality and humor. The setup is simple: Two Irish hitmen, the seasoned Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and the caffeinated Ray (Colin Farrell), have been sent to Bruges by their hotheaded boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to cool off from a job gone wrong in London. Ken finds the medieval town and its tourists serene. Ray finds it a shithole, though a meeting with sexy Chloe (Clémence Posy) sparks things up. That's all I'm telling you. It's McDonagh's gift for language that makes this film uniquely tasty. The writer-director incorporates a scene from the 1958 Orson Welles classic Touch of Evil to show where he's at in terms of crime drama, meaning get ready to have the rug pulled out from under you. In Bruges isn't about the narrative logic espoused by television. It's about wounds inflicted on the human heart. The actors are spectacular. Farrell, following a sharp turn in Woody Allen's dull-edged Cassandra's Dream, gives a performance of ferocity and feeling. He's got his mojo back. And Gleeson is a pleasure to watch, his face a road map to his character's soul. The climax is admittedly bugfuck, though Fiennes has a ball going plum off his nut. But In Bruges is a haunting and hypnotic movie, just the thing to get lost in.

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