Any young person will know that there are few things worse than showing a friend a video you thought was funny only to have them sit in agonizing, unamused silence.

The same can be said for films.

One such event that comes to mind is when Maxwell Shukuya (the blog’s co-author) and I decided to watch a children’s film he had seen while home sick. The end result of this exercise was us silently watching something that was painfully unfunny to anyone without a 102-degree fever.

Of course, there are those films which nearly everyone thinks is “funny” but nobody seems to laugh at. “Fargo” is a good example. Nobody knows what, but there’s something about that movie that’s oddly comedic.

The same goes for 2008’s “In Bruges,” a black comedy about Ray and Ken (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson), two hitmen who have been sent to lie low in the Belgian city of Bruges after Ray accidentally kills a young boy on the job.

The plot is mainly advanced by the fact that, unlike Ken who finds the city charming and quaint, Ray hates it, and constantly tries to find something to do other than to appreciate the sights of the 900-year-old city. He finds a distraction (from both the city and his crushing guilt) in Chloe, a drug dealer and thief who moonlights as a production assistant on a local film.

The situation eventually sours when Ken gets a call from his boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), who orders him to kill Ray for the killing of a child. Of course, Ken isn’t too ecstatic about this prospect, and that’s where the movie gets really good.

But I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, would I?

As its genre label suggests, “In Bruges” is a funny movie, but not one that makes you laugh. If someone asked me for a scene that was particularly funny, I would have a hard time coming up with anything.

Well, there was one scene involving a wine bottle and two angry Canadians that elicited an audible chuckle from me.

Shocking, I know.

Like  other dark/dry comedies, “In Bruges” amuses not on a joke-by-joke basis, but rather on an atmospheric level. Just as we smiled at the bumbling, “Minnesota nice” of the characters of “Fargo,” we also smile at the idea of two hitmen vacationing in a historical Belgian town.

While Gleeson is good for the occasional laugh, he’s mostly there to play the straight man to counter Farrell’s character, which is where the film really shines as a comedy.

Ray’s appeal (much like the actor portraying him) can be summed up in two words: delightfully Irish.

He is at once lovable, sincere and an utter jackass, making him the closest thing the world has to a child hitman. Whenever Ken wants to go see some holy relic or ancient building, Ray is shuffling close behind, moaning that he’s bored and would much rather be doing a pub crawl in Dublin.

That’s not to say that he’s carefree, however. Ray is still wracked with guilt, something that he tries to suppress and compensate for through his vivacious personality.

Farrell is at his best when Ray balances between despair and joy. He’s believable and quite fun to watch as he goes from a man happily getting drunk and fighting total strangers to a man of nearly suicidal sadness.

I’m just satisfied Farrell is better here than in “Total Recall.” Yeesh.

As I said before, Gleeson mainly serves as the straight man, making sure that Ray’s around whenever his boss may call and offering more cultured alternatives to the usually alcohol-related diversions Ray proposes.

Ken falls into the oft-used character type of the “hitman with a heart.” He’s polite, cultured and an all-around good person—except for the fact that he kills people for a living.

This poses an interesting question for Ken: can he allow a bad person (Harry) to kill his friend for a good reason?

Ultimately, the ending is the crowning moment of the film. There’s really nothing worse than a film whose ending contradicts or ignores the character development that’s been building the entire time.

Fortunately, “In Bruges” doesn’t disappoint..

The only world to describe the ending is natural. Because the deaths that conclude the film are moral choices, the characters are allowed to come to a natural and fitting resolution.

So if you’re looking for a comedy but are tired of the same old pie-in-the-face slapstick, try “In Bruges” for humor that is dark, witty, and truly funny.

 

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