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In Bruges (R) ***

Brendan Gleeson, left, and Colin Farrell are on target as the two assassins.
Brendan Gleeson, left, and Colin Farrell are on target as the two assassins.

By Connie Ogle

In Bruges is what Guy Ritchie might dream about making if, in fact, he could make a worthwhile movie anymore. Dusted lightly with a Tarantino sensibility and sly British humor and steeped in a cheerfully warped morality, the entertainingly profane film follows the adventures of hitmen Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) who are hiding out in the pretty Belgian city after a job gone wrong.

Their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) has insisted that the assassins spend two weeks in what he likes to call a ”fairy tale.” Ray, shaken by failure on his first real job and the suspicion that maybe he’s not cut out for such employment, sneers at Bruges’ historic treasures and longs to go home, although his situation grows a bit sunnier when he meets Chloe (Clémence Poésy, last seen as Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). The philosophical Ken, though, enjoys playing the tourist — at least until he gets a new set of orders that are not to his liking at all.

Fans of Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic plays might have a shrewd idea what’s coming: violence, much of it bloody. A recent local production of his hilarious The Lieutenant of Inishmore, about a deranged ex-IRA assassin seeking revenge on his cat’s killers, ended with blood-drenched actors ”dismembering” a couple of corpses on stage. In Bruges is less gory, but make no mistake: This is a comedy unafraid to shock, and the bloodbath is all the more startling amid Bruges’ stately architecture and snowy silence.

McDonagh’s dialogue is brisk and funny, reminiscent of the banter between Tarantino’s chatty hitmen Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction. McDonagh, though, employs a more pointed irony in his film, and he gets great work from his cast. Farrell hasn’t been this appealing in quite awhile, and Fiennes, his delicate good looks slicked down and buried under a steady stream of expletives, bares a sharklike mouthful of teeth with gleeful menace.

Harry, it turns out, is not above listening to reason, even of a twisted sort, and he has a peculiar moral code. When presented with an Uzi, he smiles his Great White smile and patiently tells the supplier, ”I want a normal gun for a normal person,” never acknowledging that a normal person wouldn’t need a gun in Bruges or that he is about as far from normal as you can possibly find. Such dry humor keeps In Bruges fresh and lively and makes it a whole lot of fun to watch.