In Bruges

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(2007) ★★★★★

Channel4: Saturday 13 June, 12.10am

After a bungled London job, Irish hitmen Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are holed up in a Bruges hotel awaiting instructions from their boss, Ralph Fiennes. The beautifully preserved splendours of the medieval Belgian town are lost on the twitchy Farrell: “If I grew up retarded on a farm, I might be impressed.” His laidback partner, though, is happy to sightsee. And what sights they will see… A remarkably assured feature debut from award-winning Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, whose short film Six Shooter bagged him an Oscar in 2005. His In Bruges script received an Original Screenplay nod, too, and for once the category’s apt: In Bruges is indeed an original work. Tasteful music from regular Coen brothers collaborator Carter Burwell complements the setting, as soothing and tranquil as the tree-lined canals, while the language, harsh and hilarious, springs from the gutter. This is the best lowlife highjinx since Ben Kingsley’s Sexy Beast, with the furrow-browed Farrell frankly amazing as the frantic Ray, acting like a five-year-old who’s dropped all his sweets. Gleeson’s always good value, of course, and Ralph Fiennes also has fun as their hot-tempered boss Harry. Foolishly marketed by Film4 as some kind of wacky comedy, McDonagh’s tough and funny drama shouldn’t be under-estimated. This kind of teetering-on-the-edge material could so easily have been messed up. But McDonagh’s not interested in pandering to the audience, Tarantino-fashion. His targets are clearly defined, and his aim is true. McDonagh followed In Bruges with Seven Psychopaths, brother John made The Guard and Calvary. Which more or less puts them on par with the Coen brothers.

Certificate: 18
Duration: 107min