The challenge of finding a new slant for the hitman-genre is partly remedied because In Bruges is set in a city many North Americans have never heard of. Bruges, the medieval Belgian city, is where assassins Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) hide out---and rethink their professions---following a flubbed job. Playwright Martin McDonagh uses Bruges for its fairytale quality. This sense of childhood escape highlights the distance between Ray’s loose-cannon irresponsibility and Ken’s experienced professionalism. They’re both threatened by the introduction of crime boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), who takes his job so seriously, he’s on the brink of a heart attack.
McDonagh’s violent characters are unable to relate to the decent people of Bruges. This is the crux of the film’s comedy. But In Bruges too frequently succumbs to the played-out cliches of the genre---making this occasionally satisfying piece never piercing enough to be remembered.