After opening up Sundance and popping up at the Portland International Film Festival, the dark comedy In Bruges hits Cinema 21 this weekend, bringing with it no small amount of arthouse cred. Which is weird, because it has Colin Farrell in it.
Something else that's weird: In Bruges isn't very good. It's enjoyable enough, sure, but it's schizophrenic at best, and outright awkward at worst. Before it goes totally off the rails in its third act, though, it's a welcome reminder that a couple of great characters can make just about anything watchable.
Shockingly enough, Farrell, the usually terrible movie star, is one of the strongest parts of In Bruges, with the other strongest part being Brendan Gleeson, the usually excellent character actor. Farrell plays the young Ray, a nervous, tense hit man who's been teamed up with the seasoned, dependable Ken (Gleeson). After Ray's first hit goes awry, our duo is sent by their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), to Bruges, "the most well-preserved medieval town in the whole of Belgium." Ken is content to check out the sights and wait for Harry's next instructions: Through churches and museums, Ken drags Ray along as he admires holy relics and gazes meaningfully at Hieronymus Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights." (Symbolism alert!) Ray can't stand it. Luckily for him, there's some stuff going on beneath the town's idyllic surface—from drug-dealing Eurotrash chicks (Clémence Poésy) to racist midgets (Jordan Prentice).
Where In Bruges goes from there is... well, all over the place, and I'm 99 percent sure writer/director Martin McDonagh didn't have a clue what to do once he finished writing the film's second act. By the time the climax rolls around, In Bruges' maudlin music has swelled, its edgy comedy has curdled to clumsy melodrama, and nearly everyone in the supporting cast has grown incredibly annoying (with the exception of Fiennes, who valiantly does his damnedest to keep things entertaining).
Even though In Bruges train wrecks pretty spectacularly, for most of its running time, it demonstrates three things: (1) Witty hit men will always be entertaining. (2) Indeed, Bruges appears to be a delightful vacation spot, and I'd like to request some pamphlets from the town's tourism board. (3) Colin Farrell, when he feels like it, can actually not suck.