It really shouldn't have taken the fact that we're going on holiday to Bruges (well, the environs) on Friday to induce me to finally watch In Bruges, but it did. What a film.
In a variation on the hackneyed good-cop-bad-cop set-up, In Bruges centres on two Irish hitmen who are mismatched in terms of personalities but perfectly paired in terms of dramatic tension. Ken (Brendan Gleeson) is the older, calmer head, happy to pass the time patiently waiting for their boss Harry's call by taking in the sights and immersing himself in the history of the Belgian town to which they've been sent. By contrast, Ray (Colin Farrell) is young, fiery and impetuous, restless and irritable at being trapped in "a shithole". Initially just a disembodied voice on the phone, Cockney crime overlord Harry - played by a rather miscast Ralph Fiennes - puts in an appearance in the second half.
The plot twist (such as it is) halfway through is predictable, but that doesn't detract from the way in which In Bruges plunges to its denouement. In the juxtaposition of violence and sharp, lean, profanity-laden and frequently comic dialogue, the film reminded me of Quentin Tarantino's finest, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction - a comparison that could potentially do it no favours whatsoever, but it's good enough to actually hold its own in that company.
I was expecting all of the lingering shots conveying the history and aesthetic allure of the town, but not the amount of bloodshed. Here's hoping that when we visit, we get to appreciate the former without any of the latter.