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Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s blackly comic debut feature leaves few politically correct sacred cows unstoned. Hitmen Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) have been sent to the medieval Belgian town of Bruges to lie low while they wait to be contacted after pulling off a hit in London. Ken enjoys sightseeing, Ray hates the place, and their constant verbal sparring fuels a highly enjoyable odd-couple relationship.
It adds considerably to the sardonic flavour of a crime caper which manages to be funny, shocking and memorably tasteless. The lively, cynical climax, involving the duo’s London boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes, committing a cruelly accurate send-up of Michael Caine at his most cinematically Cockney) leads to a gunfight. “Why don’t you both put your guns down, and go home?” asks a hotelier as Harry and Ray exchange bullets, only to be put down by Harry’s contemptuous response: “Don’t be stupid! This is the shootout.”
McDonagh’s high-spirited, low-intentioned film has been compared to Tarantino. Fortunately it is far more disciplined and much better than that.