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In In Bruges, Colin Farrell plays mobster Ray, who kills a priest and, accidentally, a young child while on a “job.” He and another gangster, Ken (Brendan Gleeson, Professor “Mad­Eye” Moody from the latest Harry Potter films), are re-located by their boss (Ralph Fiennes in a small role) to Bruges, a town in Belgium, while the dead-child disaster boils over. What starts off as an intriguing logline slowly develops into a story influenced by the people who were influenced by Quentin Tarantino. This watered-down, not-so-witty homage to bloody violence and four-letter words fails to do anything new with the “genre” (if you can, in fact, call it that).

I never go into a movie hoping it will be bad. I want every movie I see to be good (even if it happens to be made by Paul Haggis or Michael Bay), but I always manage to stumble across something that sucks. I wanted to like In Bruges. I already like Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell, dark humor, bloody violence, and a nice 25-words-or-less storyline. So what’s wrong with this picture? 

Writer/director Martin McDonagh’s only previous film work includes the live-action short Six Shooter, which won McDonagh an Oscar. However, he doesn’t appear to be ready for a feature-length canvas. Too many scenes are filled with repetitious dialogue for no apparent artistic, or logical, reason. These same scenes include diversions and tangents that, while inspired by Tarantino and Kevin Smith, don’t work, as they don’t move the plot and aren’t even (at least) humorous. Instead of debating the sexual nature of foot massages or if 37 is a few dozen too many, the characters B.S. about the suicidal tendencies of midgets, the inevitable race war, and how boring Bruges can be. The actors have been good in other films, and they do what they can with their roles. Their joint efforts amounts to nought, though, as they come off as strained, awkward, and showy.

I’ve seen a performance of one of McDonagh’s plays (The Lieutenant of Inishmore), and it’s a great balance between very dark humor and extreme, graphic violence. McDonagh doesn’t stick with this strength in In Bruges, and this decision only shows as a weakness. The year has started off dismally with a few bright spots, but this movie already ranks as one of the worst of 2008.

Rating: 4/10

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