Bruges is a remarkably well-preserved medieval city in Belgium and chosen backdrop for the latest hitman comedy from indieville. Writer/director Martin McDonagh, known mostly as a playwright — although he does have an Oscar for Best Short Film — scatters some surprising plot twists in this tale of two hitmen trying lay low and being unable to do so. The main surprise is a dark, guilty, and quite serious suicidal streak that runs through Bruges up to the bloody climax.

Following the laws of great screenwriting, every detail planted earlier will pay off by the end and every off-screen menace will materialize on-screen. McDonagh and his central pair — Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell — hit only a few sour notes in pages of whip-crack dialogue. Apparently this pace, and the tepidly redeeming conclusion are the work of editor Jon Gregory, who McDonagh credits in a Creative Screenwriting podcast interview with slimming the movie to it’s fighting weight.

In Bruges is not any sort of revelation in this post-Pulp Fiction era, but it is far better than the unceremonious dumping it’s getting into pre-Oscar Purgatory. Fans of dark comedy should see it in the few weeks it will be on screen or add it to the rental cue.

Emanuel Levy’s interview with McDonagh
Clip from the Oscar-winning short, Six Shooter
Full short available on 2005 Academy Award Shorts Compilation
Martin McDonagh’s plays

The Matador
Grosse Pointe Blank
Boondock Saints