At the beginning of In Bruges, Colin Farrell’s mobster, Ray, declares, “If I grew up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t.” I know how he feels. I might have laughed at Ray’s banter with his partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson) if only I had never heard of vaudeville, Samuel Beckett, Neil Simon, the buddy cop movie, Will & Grace or for godssakes Laverne & Shirley.
After Ray accidentally ices a wee boy during his first hit (on a priest played by the lately ubiquitous Ciaran Hines), he and Ken head to the titular Belgian city, where they pose as tourists while waiting for things to cool off back in London. Ken goes sightseeing while Ray cruises a drug-dealing bird (Clémence Poésy). You, unfortunately, must bide your time watching the movie. Mercifully, Ralph Fiennes’s arrival in the third act, as a hot-tempered Cockney thug, represents a serious improvement. Fiennes is one of those screen actors — like Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tilda Swinton, Richard Widmark and Ronald Reagan — who are only credible, but unequivocally so, when evil.
Beyond Fiennes, however, In Bruges is remarkable mostly for its lack of originality. Director Martin McDonagh recycles everything from Coen brothers tracking shots to thirteen-year-old Tom DeCillo dwarf material and an awkward telephone conversation from Dr. Strangelove. Gleeson shows impeccable timing muttering his shopworn ripostes and bullshit sentiments. But he’s entirely wasted on hangdog Farrell. Weeping over the crime he committed, cutesy Ray sounds like a kid who dropped his ice cream cone. In Bruges was the Sundance opening-night selection. Shouldn’t what happens in Park City stay in Park City?