Walking into the theatre, my only awareness of the film was it was something to do with assassins, and I'd heard of two of the actors. Walking out, I was quite pleased at having read little and just was along for the journey, "In Bruges" (pronounced something like brew-gis).
After Ray completes a hit job in London (as he explains ditching the gun in the Thames and washing up at a Burger King), he and associate Ken are told to go lay low in Bruges, Belgium for a few weeks by boss man Harry. Ken, a bit older and more relaxed, enjoys the scenery and sightseeing of the centuries-old town. On the other hand, the younger man Ray can't stop talking about hating the town and making generally rude comments about it. Contrast, certainly.
Whilst out one evening during their stay, they encounter a film being made, with Chloe on set whom Ray chats up for a date, and dwarf Jimmy is one of the actors. As the two are out of the motel, Harry calls for Ken, and is upset Ken's not in the hotel room, but leaves a profane message with the receiptionist that he will be calling the next night and expects them to be in. (Of course, the receptionist is the co-owner, and makes it clear she's not the phone secretary.)
Just to get out on the table, the film starts off slow, though I would challenge it's on purpose. The two are laying low for a reason, but more over, Harry loved that town as a child and enjoyed the scenic nature of it; sending the pair there was his way of forcing them to see something pleasant while passing the time. As things progress, the pace picks up to an almost frantic clip as events begin to unfold.
Ray and Ken (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) make a remarkable pairing in the film. Ray is the younger, impatient and generally angry bloke; Ray is tolerant of Ray, at ease with not having to do much more than tour the canals for a few weeks. Harry (Ralph Fiennes) is a hot-head, swears often, is rash, and is the perfect teeter-totter between the personalities of the other two main characters.
This is British writer/director Martin McDonagh's second bout with the cinema, and thus far is doing quite well for himself. He's previously done a number of Broadway productions, earning several awards and recognition in that medium. His story lines tend to be dark, with a twist of connection to Ireland (but growing up in London with the on-going "troubles" with Ireland, you almost have to presume some impression of those violent years is going to be left behind).
Virtually every character is flawed in some way; Ray, Ken and Harry have this assassin gig going on. The woman Ray fancies, Chloe, used to rob tourists as part of a two-person act with her now-ex-boyfriend (who tries to assault Ray, though that goes poorly). Even the dwarf Jimmy isn't without his vices.
We finally get down to what Ray did that was so bad, why Harry is so determined to have these two in Bruges of all places, and of the twist of fate when bad things happen to bad people. By then, it seems almost secondary, almost where you're past caring as to who did what. Rather, you're rooting for one or more of the three characters to finish what they had started (even if it's at the disruption of someone else's plans).
Given some of the talent in the film, it seems a waste that it's not on a wider release schedule. Though due to the overall dark way about the film, it seems all-too-common theatres will shy away from something on the edge and instead go with just another copy of "Hannah Montana."
And therein lays the tragedy. If it's local, grab a seat and go along "In Bruges" for the ride. It's worth it.