‘In Bruges’ an action-packed dramedy

Natalie Smith

Hit men are well aware that their violent profession is erratic and unpredictable.

But what happens when a job goes south and a half-crazed boss orders two goons to cool their feet in Bruges – a picturesque medieval city straight from a fairytale – for an undetermined amount of time and for no apparent reason?

Bruges is possibly the last city one would expect to find two hit men relaxing in their free time if assassins have a city of preference, but it is the country of Belgium that writer/director Martin McDonough chose as the backdrop and co-star for his dark comedy.

Place an added emphasis on the “dark” that precedes “comedy.”

Ralph Fiennes (“The English Patient”) plays an infamous boss who clings to an underdeveloped set of morals that he expects his men to also follow.

Unfortunately, his beliefs pit him against his own men: Colin Farrell (“S.W.A.T.,” “The Recruit”), who plays Ray – a novice in their profession attempting to work though a crippling amount of guilt about a recent wrong turn taken in life-and Brendan Gleeson (“Cold Mountain”), who plays Ken.

Ken has more than a few kills under his belt but clings to the hope that Ray may have the chance Ken never had to break free of their profession and start a new life.

To this already-strange combination of characters, add a sexily vamped drug dealer named Chloé.

Played by Clémence Poésy (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”), she preys on unsuspecting tourists; and her boyfriend, who straddles the fence between incompetent and psychotic.

McDonough won an Oscar for his short film “Six Shooter” back in 2006.

Given his previous success, it is no surprise that the talented writer/director has tried his hand at both writing and directing again, this time with “In Bruges.”

But what is unclear about his latest venture is whether McDonough has fully mastered the art of creating a full-length feature film.

Themes, which are traditionally supposed to pop in subtle ways, hit the viewer over and over again about as delicately as a wrecking ball. But perhaps it is the word “traditional” that does not fit with McDonough’s vision.

As the credits roll at the end, the audience may be left a little dazed at its openness, even to the point where it wonders whether McDonough simply ran out of ideas for how to close.

But the cinematography is impeccable, the story is insinuating and the witty dialogue, which is coupled with the clever use of repetition to heighten the comedic appeal, is reason enough to see McDonough’s latest work.

Yes, “In Bruges” is a bit gory.

No, it is not a film for the family. But it does pose some interesting philosophical questions that a drug addict, hit man or someone similarly trapped within the city of Bruges might stop and ponder.

At the very least, “In Bruges” is extremely entertaining and will keep you laughing before switching to become an action-packed drama near the end.