In Bruges (2008)

(In theaters, February 2008) The problem with black comedies is that often, the darkness can snuff out the comedy. That’s what increasingly happens here, as the hilarious story of a pair of hit men waiting out an assignment in the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges is interrupted by violent flashbacks and gory deaths. As a comedy, In Bruges initially works well: There’s a nice absurdity to the misadventures of the hit men (Collin Farrel as an ADD-addled firebrand and Brendan Gleeson as an older veteran), the dialogs are fantastic and the unpredictable nature of the plotting is engrossing. This isn’t about real-world assassins, but an idealized, Pulp Fiction-infused ionic representation of murdering men with honor. In Bruges may not be a hilarious film, but it’s steadily amusing: racist midgets, anti-Bruges kvetching, a profane boss (Ralph Fiennes, wonderful), musings on the morality of killing bottled-armed people… it adds up. But what also adds up is an increasingly dark vein of violent developments, up to an including graphic deaths. While there’s an elegance to the way even smaller lines get their payoffs, there are also a few loose pieces in the mix: The girlfriend seems wasted once her plot function of providing a character with a gun is accomplished. The partially-blinded guy seemed destined for a bigger part. Even the ending, as ambiguous as it is, doesn’t completely satisfy. On the other hand, I don’t think that the city of Bruges will ever get a better promotional film.

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