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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

But I didn’t, so it doesn’t

Dark comedy examines the true meaning of sin

Published: March 7, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

diverse-city-3-7-08_page_1_image_0002.jpgBetween the assassinations, attempted suicide, witty banter and pokes at Americans, who would have thought that a moral question lies at the heart of In Bruges? Surprisingly though this dark comedy manages to question whether sin is really as black and white as society makes it out to be; suggesting rather that certain sins are forgivable under a specific set of circumstances.

Directed by Martin McDonagh, the film follows two hit men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who are sent to Bruges, Belgium to hide out after Ray accidentally kills a young boy on his first assignment. Aside from waiting for their outrage-prone boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to call, at first glance there is not much to do in Bruges. Ken turns to sightseeing the quaint medieval scenery the city has to offer, while Ray seeks out whatever fun can be found in Bruges.

The purpose of this search for entertainment is not so much to alleviate the tedium Ray experiences in Bruges, but rather to find some distraction from his overwhelming guilt over the death of the child.


However, the people Ray encounters along the way only serve to heighten his confusion. First he meets seductive drug dealer and thief Chloë (Clémence Poésy), who attempts to seduce Ray before her boyfriend barges in. Ray also befriends Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), a dwarf actor who dabbles in prostitutes and horse tranquilizers, among other things.

These characters are an apt portrayal of the contradictions that run rampant in Bruges. While it is tourist trap by day, the city is plagued by vice by night. This only reinforces Ray’s impression of Bruges as a hell on Earth.

Ray’s suffering is exacerbated by the fact that he soon finds out that he was sent to Bruges as a last gift of sorts from Harry, who orders Ken to kill Ray. While Harry makes a living by orchestrating hits on people, he feels that Ray must die to compensate for accidentally killing the child. However, Ken believes that Ray should be allowed to exit the business and be given a second chance at building a pure life. Throughout the film, the viewer is provoked into an inner debate between whether there is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sin or if it possible for a sinner to deserve a fresh start.

So at this point, you may be asking where the humor factors in? However, just as Bruges is not as pure as it seems, none of the main characters fulfill the role of stereotypical hit men. Ray’s immaturity, which comes out in his childish excitement over coming across a movie set featuring dwarfs, makes it hard to believe he could ever have been a cold-blooded killer.

Then there’s Ken, whose gruff exterior coupled with his fascination with sightseeing makes him seem more like a beloved teddy bear than a seasoned assassin. The humor of the morality of hit men is exemplified at the beginning of the climatic chase scene between Ray and Harry, in which they decide to stall their fight until after they have left the hotel to avoid harming a pregnant woman.

In Bruges is an interesting turn for Farrell, who despite his diverse resumé is still probably best known for his reputation as a bad boy lothario. This movie is just the thing to remind viewers that Farrell has the talent to back up his fame. Despite the fact that the viewer finds out early on that Ray murdered a child, Farrell plays this character with such downtrodden insecurity that the audience cannot help but empathize with him.