Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, ...
Credit: Jaap Buitendijk

Belgium has medieval architecture that will render you speechless, and strong beer that may do the same. But the country is a bit boring. There’s a reason the tourist board doesn’t warn you that what happens in Belgium stays there. Playwright-turned-director Martin McDonagh concurred after visiting the quiet, scenic Bruges. As he says in an In Bruges DVD featurette, he ”thought it would be cool to have a backdrop like that to a gangster story.” He was right.

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell play a pair of chalk-and-cheese assassins who flee to Belgium after botching a job for a British gangster (Ralph Fiennes) in In Burges. Gleeson’s avuncular middle-aged hitman warms to Bruges and its history. To the younger, twitchy Farrell, ”history is just a lot of stuff that’s already happened”; his goal is bedding a local drug dealer (Clémence Poésy). This first feature from McDonagh, a 2006 Oscar winner for his short Six Shooter, crackles with blackly comic dialogue, terrific acting, and grisly violence. The gore increases substantially when a marvelously malevolent Fiennes arrives for what’s surely not a sightseeing trip.

The film features no shortage of salty language, which is all spliced together in the extra ”F—ing Bruges.” (This trend continues in a dozen often-excellent deleted scenes, notably when Fiennes’ character tells a chatty train passenger, ”If I’d wanted a conversation with a c–t, I’d have gone to the Have a Conversation With a C–t Shop.”) Two making-of docs are less memorable. But the movie itself — unlike Belgium — is never dull. B+

In Bruges
  • Movie
  • 107 minutes