Bruges Brothers Farrell, McDonagh and Schamus flaunt bloody In Bruges at NYC premiereBrothers Brothers Farrell, McDonagh and Schamus flaunt bloody In Bruges at NYC premiere
By S.T. VanAirsdale The Reeler Newsletter — NYC Cinema 

 NEW YORK (RUSHPRNEWS) February 7, 2008- Martin McDonagh was sick Monday night at the New York premiere of his feature directing debut In Bruges. He also didn’t feel well. But the legendary playwright and Oscar-winning short filmmaker defied his literal condition just long enough to show off the more figurative one — funny, flawed and darkly revelatory as ever, aided and abetted by leading man Colin Farrell and Focus Features president James Schamus.

“Things that are profane in our culture are not allowed into the ‘fanum’ — the temple,” Schamus said, introducing McDonagh and Co. by way of an etymology lesson that included “shit,” “fuck” and “obscene,” among other choice words. “They are ‘pro,’ or in front of the temple. And tonight I can honestly say that we have come to worship at the profane altar of one of the truly genius obscene pornographers I’ve ever met. A guy who will make you live this language — live its history and rebirth you in it in a way you have never experienced before.”Opening Friday in New York, In Bruges is not quite that profound, though its strafing of PC boundaries and vicious means to discomfort draw liberally from the McDonagh tradition of male loathing and redemption. “Of course it’s dangerous!” groans crime boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), en route to fulfilling his self-imposed duty in the titular Belgian village. “It’s a matter of honor!” Such epigrammatic poise — McDonagh’s formula for self-actualization, really — is likewise the default setting for Irish hit men Ray and Ken (Farrell and Brendan Gleeson), dispatched to Bruges to await instructions for their next assignment.

Flashing back, distress compounds Ray’s natural insolence when he accidentally kills a young boy in his first job; flashing forward, Ken minds his protégé like a son, mining Bruges’s laughably finite culture and assuaging the part of Ray’s spirit less nurtured by his taste for booze and a lithe local drug dealer (Clémence Poésy). “I knew where it was, but I didn’t know how I knew where it was,” Farrell told The Reeler about the location’s impact on story and character (and speaking in part for his for his ill director, who fled his after-party early). “It wasn’t just a story about hit men — ‘Oh, where will I set it? Bruges is interesting!’ It was a case where [McDonagh] went to Bruges and found two perspectives on it. One was that he loved the place; it was like a fairy tale, and he loved it during the day. But then he’d been to all the museums and was bored out of his tits and wanted to go get drunk. So he decided: What if those two guys were in the town and had those extreme feelings — the disparity between both? That’s where Brendan and I came in.”

Except when their assignment comes, Ken takes the call: Ray’s accident makes him expendable, Harry says, and Ken must knock him off. In attempting to do so, he interrupts the younger man’s suicide attempt. Ken’s dueling obligations don’t account for salvation, however, and the melancholy moralizing that ensues makes an uneasy dance partner for McDonagh’s unwavering dark humor.

“We had three weeks of rehearsal before we started,” Farrell said. “Which is a luxury, pretty much, for many films. But with him coming from the theatrical background, I think he understood, especially with the amount of detail in the script and the extremity in changes that it would be something that would benefit us all.” But the tonal shifts (ruminations on a hate crime end a lighter riff on dwarf race war, and that’s just the least of it) are made more jarring by the director’s fondness for extreme close-ups, as if overcompensating for his new forum offstage. Granted, McDonagh scored an Oscar for his 2006 short Six Shooter, and the depictions of violence and revulsion herein — exploded heads and bodies, not to mention flurries of destabilizing verbal jabs (“You retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!”) — have a misanthropist poet’s fineness to them. Nevertheless, sensitive as he is to character, he’s either under- or overreaching with the image.

Colin Farrell and Martin McDonagh at Monday’s New York premiere of In Bruges (Photo: STV)

Farrell, who has worked with more visionaries in the last five years (Mann, Malick, Spielberg, Allen and Stone, for starters; even Joel Schumacher is transcendently bad) than most actors will audition for in their careers, had the relative rookie’s back. “He’s got a keen eye on him,” he told me. “He’s a great observer who travels a lot and pours himself into his work. As a director, he understood the characters and the situations innately having written it, but he also is a student of film. Film was the first medium that he really loved; theater wasn’t something he was that into at first. It was just happenstance that he wrote plays. So he was a keen student, and he definitely brought a visual style that he wanted to expose.”

But let’s face it: At the end of the day, Farrell just wanted to play a Martin McDonagh character.

“He’ll make you think conventional thought is overrated,” he told me, foreshadowing Schamus’ own introduction. “He’s got a very individual and unique perspective on things, and an incredible ability to use language. He’s just a wordsmith, and it’s great to be part of it. They’re incredible situations, incredible characters, beautifully etched, and it was a joy.”


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