In Bruges


"And as I thought I might die I realized that maybe that's what hell is: an entire eternity spent in fookin' Bruges.

And then I really wanted to live."

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tarantino meets Ingmar Bergman. A blacker-than-black comedy about two soulful hit men ...

OK, many of you have already decided not to see this movie. After all, how many more movies do we need about the murder-for-hire profession? Hit men must be more overrepresented in the cinema universe than rogue cops who play by their own rules. Hired guns now exist as a convenient shortcut for lazy screenwriters to say "this guy is an amoral anti-hero" without employing any actual character development. And the ultimate cliché is when hit men show surprising depth.

Plus, let's face it, how good can a movie about hit men really be? You know it is not going to tackle any profound themes like genocide, war, or world hunger

I know all that. And if that is your attitude, I agree with you completely.

Now try to set all that  aside, because this is a nearly perfect little gem of a movie.

To begin with, it has an intricate, twisty, economical little plot in which every detail is important and is used later in the film, in the manner of the best Seinfeld episodes. There is a dwarf in the film playing an actor in a dream sequence from a Eurocrap film-within-the-film. That seems like a throwaway joke at first, but the way it plays out, it is absolutely essential at one moment in the film that he be a dwarf, and it is absolutely essential that he be in costume for a dream sequence. That's only one example. One could make the same case about nearly every one of the film's quirky details and characters.

But that's not the reason why it is a terrific movie. The nifty little plot is just a lagniappe.

The profane, scathing dialogue is often laugh-out-loud hilarious in a kind of Monty Python way that alternates between lowbrow cynicism and erudite observations.

But that's not why the movie is so good.

The three main actors are outstanding. The photography of Bruge is evocative.

But none of that is important.

What makes the film so good is that every single character in the film is a complicated human being, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes funny, sometimes just saying things they regret later. Everyone. Even the racist dwarf, who is often stoned on horse tranquilizers and/or dressed up in a schoolboy outfit, turns out to be much more than a convenient comic conceit or a mandatory plot element. This is a film about people, and how they conceive honor, nobility, personal responsibility and loyalty.

It's a terrific script. It's only March as I write this, but I will be surprised if the rest of the year brings five scripts good enough to edge Martin McDonagh from the list of those who deserve an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.

And remember what I said about our automatic assumption that a black comedy about hit men could not deal with truly recondite themes? That assumption is wrong. Underneath the ostensible vulgarity is a film about why we want to live and why we want to die. It doesn't get any more meaningful than that.


* details not yet available







2.5 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
4 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
75 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
67 (of 100)


8.4 IMDB summary (of 10)
B Yahoo Movies


Box Office Mojo. It took in about $6 million in arthouse distribution (230 theaters).



  • None.



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


I wish I could say "A," but our system doesn't allow for that possibility. Mainstream moviegoers will like parts of it but will be put off by its dark dramatic themes. Arthouse filmgoers will be put off by its casual violence and crudity.

It is also absolutely great. If it sounds even vaguely appealing to you, you're gonna love it.