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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

IN BRUGES (2008)

The feature debut of acclaimed British playwright Martin McDonagh is just the sort of film to raise cheers @ Sundance and indifference in the general public. It’s a buddy-buddy story about Mutt & Jeff hitmen (Colin Farrell & Brendan Gleeson) forced to hide out in the Grimm-like fairy-tale town of Bruges, Brussels after a job goes terribly wrong. The dialogue-heavy script is spiked with bouts of nihilistic violence & mordant, black comedy riffs not so far removed from Quentin Tarantino Land. But McDonagh’s voice has its own alarmingly funny cadence, keyed more to the theatrical sound of Beckett, Pinter & Mamet than to ‘B’ movie fare. When the boys’ new job also goes awry, their apoplectic boss (Ralph Fiennes) shows up to fix things, and Fiennes & Gleeson make such a great tag-team that Farrell simply looks out-classed. His face ‘reads’ so loudly, he could be playing a Dick Tracy villain. (Flattop?) Equally troublesome is the confused staging (the editor must have had fits) and McDonagh’s inability to get much dramatic energy out of this fascinating city. A fine piece of dialogue between Gleeson & Fiennes is cut into your standard medium close-up reverse angles with the background out of focus. Then, for a moment, a brief two-shot includes the town, the tower, the men, all clearly in focus; suddenly, its not just good dialogue, but a real movie scene, fully alive to all the variables. McDonagh’s smart, he’ll note the difference.

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