For the third time this year, Cinema 3 is a re-run: What Happens in Vegas is playing again, and with a slightly bigger audience than last time, which is hard to believe; I can only assume that most of them were hoping to get tickets for Sex and the City.
I just got back a few hours ago from a weekend trip to Montreal, where I helped a friend move into her new apartment. If there is one thing that What Happens in Vegas gets right, it is our cultural belief that travel can rejuvenate us, give us a fresh perspective, or even completely change our lives.
Of course, much like the movies, sometimes travel is also about escaping our lives. The movies are full of characters who put on a facade at home only to shed it and “find themselves” while abroad. Cameron Diaz was in a pretty good one of those a couple of years ago called The Holiday. Some of my favourite films, like Local Hero, are based on that idea.
My partner Mare is crazy for travel. This year alone she is going to France and Italy for work and school related trips. I have not travelled far beyond Toronto and New York, so I am hoping to get to Europe this summer; Belgium in particular, because some of my ancestors come from there, because they love comics as much as I do, and I am intrigued by the art and architecture.
Not surprisingly, we were pleased to find that In Bruges was available on our hotel movie menu last night as we unwound after helping our friend move. We had both been wanting to see it, but apart from one film society showing, it did not make it to Saint John. The premise of the film is that Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are a pair of hit men sent to Bruges (a relatively sedate city in the northern half of Belgium) to wait for further instructions from their boss (Ralph Fiennes) after a job goes wrong. Initially aggravated by having to cool his heels in what he considers to be a “rubbish” place, Ray (Farrell) meets a young drug dealer named Chloe (Clemence Poesy) who helps him clear his head.
The first notable thing about In Bruges is that its script is incredible. It’s very dark and funny, taking the piss out of its characters while taking repeated jabs at Belgium, tourists, race relations, international relations and identities, crime, the movies, and much more. It would not be unfair to compare it to a film like Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels; filled with profane and violent but somehow appealing and even sympathetic people. The script is not perfect, but it earns the few stumbles it has.
Secondly, the performances. I can’t think of a better film featuring Colin Farrell, who is asked to wear his usual smug asshole mask while at the same time letting it slip. Curiously, the remainder of the cast is made up of actors on a sort-of-vacation from the Harry Potter movies – Voldemort, Mad-Eye Moody and Fleur Delacour. Ralph Fiennes is particularly hilarious and menacing as Harry the crime boss, who sends his men to Bruges because it’s “a fuckin’ fairy tale”, only to reveal his true and much darker purpose later on.
Writer/Director Martin McDonagh has already won an Oscar for his first short film, “Six Shooter,” and a Tony award for his play “The Pillowman.” As his first feature film, In Bruges could have been this year’s Boondock Saints; a cult favourite with over the top violence and snappy dialogue. Instead it is a work of real depth, succeeding where a film like There Will Be Blood fails.
So while my body may have been in Cinema 3 tonight sitting through a tedious romantic comedy for the second time, my mind was In Bruges. It arrives on DVD June 24th, and I can’t wait to see it again.