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In Bruges

February 5, 2008

About a year ago, I devoted an entire column in SF Weekly to moaning about playwright (or, would "former playwright" be more accurate?) Martin McDonagh's defection from the theatre to the movies.

I find McDonagh's writing for the stage intoxicating. I get such a jolt from both reading and experiencing plays like The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Pillowman live on stage. What language! What imagery! What a way to fuck with my emotions! I love being dangled upside down and vigorously shaken like that.

I was begrudgingly impressed with McDonagh's Oscar-winning short film, Six Shooter. The writer managed to find a great deal of lyricism in his sadistic little narrative about a foul-mouthed youth on a moving train. Since winning the Best Short Film Academy Award in 2006, McDonagh's movie career has unsurprisingly taken off. His first feature film, In Bruges, is hitting the silver screen in a few months time.

I was planning on reserving judgment about McDonagh as a movie maker until after I saw this film. But having caught the trailer a couple of days ago when I went to see Juno* I'm not so sure I can be bothered to sit through what looks like a Blarney version of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

The plot concerns a couple of Irish gangsters forced to hide out in the picturesque Belgian town of Bruges while the smoke clears over a recent heist. The fact that the movie stars Colin Farrell turns me off. He's such a one-dimensional actor. I feel kind of sorry for him, always being cast as a thug. My enthusiasm is also dampened by the fact that the five-minute preview essentially makes the same inane joke over and over again, about two two Irish hit men being out of place in such a genteel, old city. And that's to say nothing of the film's naff tagline: "Shoot first. Sightsee later."

Based on this ill-begotten celluloid snippet, I don't hold out high hopes for the artistic merit of In Bruges. Though with the ever-bankable Farrell in it, I'm guessing it may bring the writer/director commercial success. Secretly, I'm hoping the movie will be a bit of a dud. Maybe then McDonagh will realize that his careening imagination was meant for the theatre.

*Regarding Juno: The film has been over-hyped in the run-up to the Oscars, unfortunately. It's very sweet, in a Little Miss Sunshine kind of a way. The thing I like best about it was the way in which the film purposefully deflects every cliche one would expect to find in a movie about a knocked-up teenager. You've got to love a film whose biggest argument revolves not around a pregnant 16-year-old fighting with her parents about staying out late, but rather around the heroine's feisty stepmother giving the ultrasound technician at the hospital a piece of her mind for being rude about her stepdaughter.

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