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'In Bruges'

Hit man Ray (Colin Farrell) awaits orders and gets into mischief with the locals and tourists in In Bruges. Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features hide caption

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Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features

Hit man Ray (Colin Farrell) awaits orders and gets into mischief with the locals and tourists in In Bruges.

Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features
  • Director: Martin McDonagh
  • Genre: Action, Comedy
  • Running Time: 107 minutes

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In Martin McDonagh's quirky, shaggy-dog joke of a hit-man movie, a pair of Irish thugs are sent to lie low in the Belgian burg that guidebooks call "the best-preserved medieval city anywhere in Europe."

As that set-up suggests, it's robust contrasts that fuel writer-director McDonagh's debut feature. His leads (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) are like a cruder, more cold-blooded Laurel and Hardy; his storybook locale harbors all manner of grifters and gangsters; his plot mixes sly humor with sanguinary excess, smart talk with dim moves, pregnant hoteliers with coke-sniffing dwarves.

As a playwright, McDonagh (The Pillowman, The Cripple of Inishmaan) has made a name for himself with poetic violence laced with laughs — he's sort of a stage Tarantino — so it's not really surprising that his talents translate well to the screen.

When violence reigns, the film feels overstated, especially at the very end. But when things are calmer, it plays really engagingly, with the leads doing a wonderful Mutt and Jeff act and the camera lingering lovingly over scenery that looks awfully pretty in the moments before it gets spattered with blood.