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Heroes of the Zeroes: In Bruges

by on May 23, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“In Bruges”
Rated R

Nineteen cumulative yards of bad hitman comedy should’ve sufficed for a decade. But joining “The Whole Nine Yards” and “The Whole Ten Yards” were the annoyingly yakkety-yak “You Kill Me” and the politically overwrought “War Inc.,” a sad sort-of sequel to the great “Grosse Pointe Blank.”

The great ones (“The Matador,” “Panic”) cut to the core of chaos and crisis in a bad profession for conscience to come calling. Still, neither went for the jocular or the jugular with such gusto as 2007’s “In Bruges.”

Moonlighting playwright Martin McDonagh quickly yanked a trapdoor on his gallows humor — jerking from wry cringe comedy to a surreal congregation of blinded skinheads, fat Americans and midgets on drug benders before a violent, solemn climactic parable about purgatory.

After a simple job acquires a high profile, hitman Ray (Colin Farrell) and his mentor, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are ordered to lay low in the titular Belgian city by brutish boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes, a barking, brawling villain with twisted avenging-angel tendencies). The trio tears into its banter with the intimacy of the stage, even as Ray and Ken’s disobedience brings irate Harry to Bruges.

In a less crowded year, Farrell would’ve landed an Oscar nomination. Ray’s snide, snotty stir-craziness becomes understandable in a place of such lengthy history and death. Through his anguish, the second half feels like an ether-induced nightmare — a nod of the head to Hieronymus Bosch’s featured apocalyptic artwork. The end result is a disarming, dizzying, demented karmic carousel ride worth taking.