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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dan Romascanu - In Bruges (2008)

- Martin McDonagh -


I had the chance to see a few years ago one of Martin McDonagh's plays, Pillowman, and came to know one of the more interesting theater authors today. In Bruges is his first feature film, and while his path from a controversial and successful author of theater to director reminds David Mamet, the characters and mood of his film are more related to the world of Tarantino.

Here is the story. Ken and Ray are two Irish mob killers who are sent into hiding after having murdered one more innocent victim than necessary. As our gangsters have a soul the younger of the two is full of remorse for the collateral victim who happened to be a kid, and as the gangsters world has a code of honor the elder of the two is charged with applying the capital punishment to the younger one. Here comes one of the best scenes I have seen recently on screen, with Ken with a gun at hand walking in a park towards Ray with the intention to kill him, and ending by saving his life by preempting his suicide. Genial - I believe that this scene may win an Oscar for original script to Martin McDonagh.

The city of Bruges is playing more than a background role in the film. With its so European order, cultural atmosphere and quiet beauty it contrasts at first sight with the brutal characters sent into hiding under the disguise of the world worst tourists. And yet it is the simple humanity of the place and civility of its people that ends by engulfing the two heroes and making them find inside themselves the resources of questioning the sense of their own actions. The middle of the film takes almost a moralistic and religious tone when dealing with these issues. When the brutal world the two belong to surges back under the person of the mafia boss come to fulfill the rules of the crime world code of honor, even his actions end by submitting to the ritual of European politeness. As in his plays, you are never sure whether McDonagh is ironic or respectful towards the world he describes.

Good acting helps a well told story, which develops in a natural manner despite the quite unusual premises. Colin Farrell, an actor that critics love to hate for roles like the ones in Alexander or S.W.A.T. is simply marvelous as Ray, the young gangster hitting hell at his first murder, trying to redeem himself and showing that he is so much better than his own actions. Brendan Gleeson as Ken, the elder, wiser and even more cultural-prone of the two, adds his own human dimension, enhanced in a classical gangster movies ending which otherwise looks somehow not fit into the rest of the film. Ralph Fiennes is cast here completely against his type (another fine choice of the director) and does a wonderful job as the hysterical mafia boss enforcing the code of honor to its ultimate consequences. Clémence Poésy provides the romantic trigger igniting the spark of humanity in Ray, while Jordan Prentice allows to the director the throwing of ironical arrows towards David Lynch and the dwarf-haunted surrealistic dreams in his movies.

Hopefully McDonagh will continue this path of his career as film director after this remarkable start. His own play-writing with the cut-edge irony, black humor and the sharpness of drawing his characters is probably the best source of inspiration and the best chance for his voice to become fully original, away from the other film makers who influenced his beginning.

Dan Romascanu

(Cronici semnate Dan)

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