The Red Right Hand

Shoot First. Sightsee Later.

Martin McDonagh

Colin Farrell
Brendan Gleeson
Ralph Fiennes

As the nightly illuminated sights of Bruges fade in and out of view, newly initiated hitman, Ray [Farrell], begins to comment on his latest job. He calmly explains that after the hit went wrong, he was told to hide out in Bruges; as the sequence comes to a close Ray states, "I didn't even know where Bruges was!" The title appears and fades to black before Ray's voice mutters, "It's in Belgium." It may sound trivial but the opening scene perfectly sets the tone for what's to come in this black comedy.

As stated, Ray's assignment goes pear-shaped when he accidentally kills a young boy and he is sent to lie low in Bruges, with fellow hitman Ken [Gleeson]. While waiting for instructions, Ken decides to take in the sights of the quaint medieval town and Ray grows more frustrated with the lack of clubs and pubs. Running parallel to the humorous banter between the two contract killers are the very serious emotional demons that Ray is forced to deal with. Word finally comes through from their menacing (if not bizarrely eccentric) employer, Harry [Fiennes], that Ken is required to kill Ray. Realising that the suicidal, young man could turn his life around he decides to disobey orders and confront his employer.

I've only seen a few of McDonagh's plays but I love that his writing style is so callously blunt and direct, reflecting how people tend to speak (especially in Britain and Ireland) regardless of how politically correct or incorrect it may sound. With his origins in theatre, the transitional writing clearly leaves the film feeling a lot like a play - the whole thing could be stripped of its setting and broken down to two men sitting around, talking - which basically means the plot focuses heavily on the characters instead of the action. Again, this may sound trivial but analysing the emotions and lives of hitmen outside of their job seems to be the only way to make a decent film about that particular profession; a good comparative study would be between Leon and Hitman.

Outside of the obvious appeal of the crude yet witty banter, there are a great deal of plus points here. Carter Burwell's soundtrack is exceptionally simplistic yet retains an atmospheric feel that beautifully fits the almost bipolar on-screen flips between laughs and tears. The setting of Bruges itself is simply fantastic but credit needs to be awarded to the Director and Director of Photography for harvesting so much out of such a small area. However, there is a downside, not so much affecting my opinion of the film but one that will hinder its popularity. There is no doubt in my mind that this film will be dubbed racist, violent and grotesque for its use of language. As stated, McDonagh's writing style is very realistic and plausible but because of that it's going to receive a bad rep. Other than that, the flaws are few and far between, leaving In Bruges a sound leap from award winning plays and Oscar winning shorts to the realm of feature films.

Release Date:
18th April 2008

The Scene To Look Out For:
A strong element of the subplot is Ray's interest in a local drug dealer, Chloe [Clemence Poesy], who sells to a Belgian film crew. Although the film is never really explained in full, we know that the lead is a dwarf, namely because Ray gleefully exclaims, "They're filming midgets!" Isolating a singular scene was incredibly difficult and to do it justice I will just describe it as wholly as possible: Having received word to kill Ray, Ken is unable to rest easy. Ray arrives in the bar and claims he has stolen a considerable amount of drugs from his girlfriend. Ken takes a gram of coke to the bathroom and proceeds to get high. Under the influence of the drug, Ray spots the dwarf actor and decides to confront him. After a fair bit of chatting Ray asks if the lady with him is also American, he explains she is from Amsterdam.

Ray: Amsterdam? Sure it's just full of prostitutes
Prostitute: I know, I thought I could come here to Bruges and get a better price for my pussy
Ray: ...Wha? You two are weird.

Wide-eyed and racing on cocaine, Farrell looks down into the camera and says "Do you's wanna buy some cocaine?" and with perfect timing, Ken's face appears over Ray's shoulder, staring down at the midget and the prostitute with the same mad, wide-eyed stare. It may not sound like much but it was absolutely hilarious, reminded me of being around my family in Sligo.

Notable Characters:
The entire cast deserve a nod, even Ciaran Hinds' cameo as a priest but ultimately Farrell's performance was astonishingly good. I've always had a quiet appreciation for his talent, despite a lot of people hating him but this is truly his finest hour to date - surpassing his roll as Lehiff, in Intermission, sipping coffee loaded with brown sauce saying, "That's fuckin' delish!"

Highlighted Quote:
"A fine day this is turning out to be! I'm suicidal, my best mate tried to kill me, got me gun nicked... AND I'M STILL IN FUCKIN' BRUGES!"

In A Few Words:
"I don't usually say this but In Bruges is a delightfully entertaining film that I simply cannot wait to see again"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon