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Hit men Ray and Ken have been ordered to cool their heels in the storybook city of Bruges, Belgium, after botching a big job. But since hit men make the worst tourists, they soon find themselves in a life-and-death struggle of comic proportions against one very angry crime boss.
For more about In Bruges and the In Bruges Blu-ray release, see In Bruges Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 23, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Thekla Reuten, Jérémie Renier
» See full cast & crew
In Bruges Blu-ray Review
A sharply written, smartly acted surprise...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 23, 2010
In Bruges is not the film trailer-trollers tend to think it is, and that's a very, very good thing. It isn't a cheeky, Brit-born crime comedy. It isn't a wry, Guy Ritchie-inspired guns-n-gangsters blowout bristling with comicbook hitmen and cartoonish thugs. It isn't Intermission or Six Shooter, nor can it really be confined to any one genre. Make no mistake, In Bruges is meatier, more meaningful fare. It's a somber black comedy driven by gut-wrenching regret and redemption; a wry dual-character study designed to dissect loss, remorse, and loyalty; a pithy tragedy of consequence that turns ethics and morality against one another. That's not to say Irish writer/director Martin McDonagh's biting humor doesn't get in the way of the darker aspects of his story -- it sometimes does -- but his award-winning sophomore outing is so unpredictable and unexpectedly moving that its faults, few and far between as they are, barely register.
When a fledgling, hot-tempered hitman named Ray (Colin Farrell, who scored a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination and win for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical) bumbles his first contract kill, he and his partner, Ken (Brendan Gleeson, snubbed for his equally mesmerizing efforts), are sent to the Belgian city of Bruges to lay low. Coolly contemplating the consequences of his colleague's mistake, Ken resigns himself to small town life and happily takes in the sights. But Ray, despite cloaking his feelings in cocky swagger and fast-talking self-assurance, is racked with guilt, continually replaying the tragic outcome of his botched assignment in his mind. Before you can say crisis of conscience, Ken is put in an unenviable position, Ray begins contemplating suicide and reluctantly sampling the local scenery -- specifically a French she-devil named Chloë (Clémence Poésy) -- and the duo's high-strung boss, Harry (a razor-tongued Ralph Fiennes, drolly eviscerating every conversation in his path), breezes into his favorite hotspot for a few days. There are bursts of violence, but they're generally of the drunken variety; unwieldy fits thrown by a grief-stricken hitman haunted by a stray bullet that fatally struck an unintended target. There are shootouts and chases, but only as a reasonable extension of the story and characters. There's even plenty of rapidfire dialogue, but nary a line goes by that doesn't offer a telling glimpse into the minds of Harry's hitters.
McDonagh's side-splitting script, Farrell and Gleeson's witty tit-for-tat banter, and Fiennes' swath of verbal destruction may steal the show (rightfully so, might I add), but it's the ease and subtlety with which In Bruges evokes emotion and twists convention that leaves a lasting impression. Farrell layers discontentment and angst within his performance, allowing Ray's inner turmoil to seep into his every expression. Latching onto Bruges as some semblance of hell on Earth, the ever-underrated actor transforms his increasingly manic mood swings into something far greater: the heartbreaking heartache of a truly repentant killer. No matter how vicious Ray can be, how grating his uneasiness might seem, or how self-destructive he becomes, a haunting melancholy propels him forward, forcing him to question his existence and face the reality of his misdeeds. Gleeson traverses a more thankless arc, but his performance is richer and more interesting for it. Ken isn't merely a source of exposition or a steady-handed counterweight to Ray's instability. As Gleeson plays him, Ray's partner is a man defined by circumstance and guided by a thirty-year old debt (turns out Harry killed the man who killed Ken's wife). He isn't distracted with embracing or rejecting the life he's lived, only in making an impossible choice between morality and loyalty; a choice that leaves him in as much turmoil as Ray.
Of course, it isn't all sob stories and sobering reflection. In Bruges can be downright hilarious, and repeatedly earns its stripes as a brisk, blazingly funny black comedy. Farrell, his eyebrows raised in nuanced naiveté, quips, "Don't know any Belgium jokes, and if I did I think I'd have the good sense not to... hang on. Is Belgium with all those child abuse murders lately? I do know a Belgium joke. What's Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse, and they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids." Followed soon thereafter by, "I don't hit women. I would never hit a woman, Chloe. I'd hit a woman who was trying to hit me with a bottle. That's different. That's self-defense, isn't it? Or a woman who could do karate. I would never hit a woman generally, Chloe." Or perhaps, "I've got four grams on me and one gram in me, which is why me heart is going like the clappers, as is I'm about to have a heart attack. So if I collapse any minute now, please remember to tell the doctors that it might have something to do with the coke." I'd serve up some of Fiennes' tastiest dialogue as well, but he drops the F-bomb so often (and so capably) that quoting Harry here would require more asterisks than vowels. Even Gleeson, the straight-laced thinker of the trio, pairs perfect timing with snarky jabs when seasoning his huggably gruff, grandfatherly career criminal.
McDonagh does overindulge here and there. Jordan Prentice's diminutive movie star, Jimmy, plays an important role in the narrative, but brings too much temperamental quirkiness to McDonagh's film-within-a-film subplot. The director's situational gags feel a tad contrived as well. Events sometimes transpire for little or no apparent reason -- comedy for comedy's sake -- and fall short of the bar McDonagh sets throughout the rest of the picture. Even so, In Bruges is a better black comedy than most, and handily nails the balance between a series of elements that could have been woefully disconnected. I suspect most filmfans will be pleasantly surprised.
In Bruges Blu-ray, Video Quality
The quality of Universal's 1080p/VC-1 transfer isn't immediately apparent. Eigil Bryld's gloomy palette isn't exactly bursting with color, noise spikes at inopportune times, black levels aren't as deep as one might hope, dimensionality is a bit flat, and soft shots pepper the film. But when measured by its faithfulness to McDonagh and Bryld's intentions, Universal's technically proficient presentation proves its worth. Skintones, though entirely dependent on their surroundings, are warm and lifelike. Primaries, particularly those in Bruges' hearthy interiors, are vibrant and stable, and contrast is wonderfully restrained and entirely filmic. Fine detail ranges from decent to remarkable, delivering refined textures, crisp edges, revealing closeups, and unhampered grain. Moreover, delineation is fairly generous, and significant ringing, artifacting, smearing, and banding are held at bay. It may not translate into the most jaw-dropping presentation, but the studio's tactful transfer is nevertheless an impressive one.
In Bruges Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The same could be said of Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Though reserved on the whole, In Bruges' lossless soundscape is quite arresting, giving every nook and alley of the quiet Belgian city a rather convincing presence in the mix. Dialogue is intelligible and nicely prioritized -- be it delivered with Farrell's perched-on-the-edge Irish lilt, Fiennes' barbed barks, or Gleeson's soothing assurances -- and only a handful of heavily accented whispers fall by the wayside. The LFE channel isn't tasked with much, but rises to the film's drunken fistfights and chaotic chases with the best of them. The rear speakers fill a support role as well, but do a fine job establishing interior acoustics, handling directional effects, and creating a capable soundfield. Restaurants are filled with the faint symphony of chattering diners and clattering silverware, a bustling film set buzzes with activity, a shallow stairwell toys with Fiennes and Farrell's voices, and a windy bell tower captures the suitably ominous lull of the night air. From there, clean separation, easy-breezy-beautiful pans, and at-times rambunctious dynamics only help the experience. In Bruges isn't going to shake your shutters or raise the hair on your neck, but it will satisfy fans and newcomers alike.
In Bruges Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray edition of In Bruges is loaded with blanks. A solid collection of "Deleted and Extended Scenes" (SD, 18 minutes) is easily the highlight of Universal's anemic supplemental package, a "Boat Trip Around Bruges" (SD, 6 minutes) is exactly what you'd expect, and a rather amusing "Gag Reel" (SD, 6 minutes) adds a pinch of humor to the mix. BD-Live Functionality, D-Box support, streaming previews, a Live News Ticker, and My Scenes bookmarking are also included.
In Bruges Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
In Bruges isn't at all what I expected it to be. Funnier, more poignant, and more memorable than I imagined, it relies on a trio of outstanding performances, a fantastic script, plenty of laughs, a welcome dose of tragedy, and several genuine gut-punches to set it apart. Universal's Blu-ray release isn't as resistant to criticism -- its superficial supplemental package disappoints -- but its AV presentation is both faithful and proficient. And ultimately, little else really matters. At the very least, In Bruges deserves a spot in your rental queue.
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In Bruges Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Universal Announces July Catalog Blu-ray Wave - April 12, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced three crime/thriller movies from its catalog for release on Blu-ray on July 13: Alpha Dog, Assault on Precinct 13 (the 2005 remake) and the more comedy-oriented In Bruges (new to high-def optical media in the US). ...
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