A 2008 tragicomedy about two hitmen hiding out in Belgium
. Ray is a rookie with a foul mouth, a fouler disposition, and a bizarre obsession with "midgets". Ken is an experienced professional with intellectual interests and curiosity about the medieval city's history (though he's no slouch in the profanity department). They spend their days exploring the city, waiting for their even more foul-mouthed boss
to call them and tell them what to do next, all the while providing much witty commentary about beautiful-but-boring Bruges
.And then everything goes to hell.
First, it's revealed that Ray's last hit went horribly wrong, and he's consumed with guilt over it. Then, he just keeps running into a Hieronymus Bosch painting of purgatory, a dwarf actor playing in a film based on a Hieronymus Bosch painting of purgatory, a cool chick who sells drugs to a dwarf actor playing in a film based on a Hieronymus Bosch painting of purgatory, and, well, a coked-out vision of purgatory. Ray spends his days grumpy, wondering if he'll go to hell or heaven or purgatory. And the more things start to come together
, the more they fall apart.
The first feature film by acclaimed British/Irish theatre director/playwright Martin McDonagh
, it was quite well-received. The performances from Colin Farrell (Ray), Brendan Gleeson (Ken), and Ralph Fiennes
(fuckin' Harry) all earned plenty of praise, and the film even scored a dark horse Academy Award
nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A Perspective Flip of the ratio of quiet to action scenes.
- Aliens in Cardiff: The movie is obviously set in Bruges, and it's viciously lampshaded a few time:
: Shortly thereafter the instructions came through: "Get the fuck out of London, you dumb fucks. Get to Bruges." I didn't even know where Bruges fucking was. (beat
) It's in Belgium.
- Ambiguous Ending
- Anti-Villain: Harry may be a murderous hitman with a bit of an anger issue, but that doesn't make him that much worse than Ken and Ray. Especially considering how strictly principled he is about his work, that he's apparently a committed family man, and the favours he did for Ken.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The park scene:
Ray: What a great day this turned out to be. I'm suicidal, me mate's trying to kill me, me gun gets nicked, and worst of all we're still in fucking Bruges.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, They're Filming Midgets!
- Autobots, Rock Out!
- Benevolent Boss: Harry seems very protective of his men, in his own way. When Ken's wife was murdered in the Back Story, Harry found and killed the man responsible. The whole ordeal in Bruges was meant to be a peaceful vacation for Ray before Harry would have him offed for killing a kid, except that Ray just found the place so painfully boring.
- Berserk Button: Harry's got quite the Hair-Trigger Temper, but insulting his kids is crossing the line.
Ken: Harry, let's face it. And I'm not being funny. I mean no disrespect, but you're a cunt. You're a cunt now, and you've always been a cunt. And the only thing that's going to change is that you're going to be an even bigger cunt. Maybe have some more cunt kids.
Ken: I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids.
Harry: Insult my fucking kids? That's going overboard, mate!
: I retracted it, didn't I? (Beat
) Still leaves you a cunt...
Harry: Yeah, I fucking got that!
- And to a lesser extent, Ken when it comes to racists - at least partially because his wife (who was black) was killed by a white man almost solely because of her race.
- Big Brother Mentor: Ken.
- Black Comedy: From that black part of the light spectrum that only The Coen Brothers can see.
- Bullying a Dragon: The tower guard, who quite likes his job, refusing a bribe and literally poking Harry's forehead as he makes his point. Reality Ensues shortly afterward.
- Call Back: An impressive amount.
- Ken and Harry aren't allowed in the tower because "an American had a heart attack".
- The Canadian woman coming at Ray with a bottle.
- Ray calling Jimmy "short-arse".
- Canada, Eh?: Averted - it is precisely because the Canadians don't fit the stereotypes of Canadians, nor speak with particularly pronounced accents, that Ray mistakes them for Americans.
- Catch Phrase : "You an American ?"
"Yeah.. but don't hold it against me."
- Chekhov's Armoury: Between Harry's honor code against killing children, his purchase of "dum-dums" and the prevalence of the midget, there's quite a lot of foreshadowing of the ending.
Harry: If I had killed a little kid, accidentally or otherwise, I wouldn't have thought twice. I'd have killed myself on the spot. I'd have put the gun in my mouth and killed myself, on the fucking spot.
- Also, Ray constantly commenting on how many midgets end up shooting themselves in the head
- And that's forgetting the tower custodian refusing to take Ken's just-short spare change.
- The Canadian that Ray hits, the fat Americans that go to the top of the tower and the gun Ray steals from Chloe and Erik.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Ray, sometimes Ken, and lampshadingly-so with Harry Waters.
"Geez, he swears a lot, don't he?"
- Contract on the Hitman: Happens to Ray himself.
- Country Matters: "Harry, let's face it- and I'm not being funny, and I mean no disrespect- but you're a cunt. You're a cunt now, you've always been a cunt, and the only thing that's gonna change is that you're gonna become an even bigger cunt, maybe have some more cunt kids."
- Crapsaccharine World: Nothing quite like setting a black comedy in picturesque Bruges in winter. Harry even admits they were sent to Bruges so that Ray would have a lovely place to be when he got his brains blown out.
- Deadly Road Trip: Inverted.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Death by Cameo: Ciaran Hinds as the priest Ray kills in the prologue. Not the first time Hinds' murder by Irish gangsters set off a plot.
- The Determinator: Ken and his climb-to-the-top-of-the-bell-tower-with-a-shot-leg-and-punctured-artery-so-you-can-jump-off-and-tell-Ray-to-take-your-gun-and-run-before-you-die determination.
- Dramatic Irony: Harry kills himself because he doesn't know the small person whose head he blew off was a dwarf and not a child.
- Driven to Suicide
- Eagleland: The grotesquely obese American tourists.
- Also parodied when Ray picks a fight with some other American tourists, blaming them, personally, for killing John Lennon and starting The Vietnam War. Later, we find out they're actually Canadians, and Ray feels bad about it.
- Also with Jimmy the dwarf:
Ken: You from the States?
Jimmy: Yeah. Try not to hold it against me.
Ken: I'll try not to. Just try not to say anything too loud or crass.
- Eiffel Tower Effect: The Belfry of Bruges is visible in several shots, primarily to remind you that they're still in fuckin' Bruges (and to later serve as a location).
- Escape Convenient Boat: Unfortunately, Ray drops his gun after landing, and gets shot anyway.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Harry is a ruthless mob boss and may well be a sociopath, but he has a wife and children that he cares about and expresses enough regard for Ken to apologize when he fatally wounds him.
- Even Evil Has Standards : Harry considering that killing kids is definitely not an option. Even killing himself when he believes he shot one.
- Also, neither Ray nor Harry would fight in the inn with the innocent (and pregnant) landlady there.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When they're in the tower, Harry is honestly baffled when Ken refuses to pick up his gun and instead starts talking about how much he respects and cares for him.
- Eye Scream: A crook tries to rob Ray with a gun loaded with blanks. Ray disarms him and shoots him from point-blank range, permanently blinding him in one eye.
- Face Death with Dignity: Ken lays down his weapon because he had no desire to fight or kill Harry at that point. Harry, being a Noble Demon, can't shoot an unarmed man - so settles for shooting him in the leg.
- He also adjusts his tie right before jumping off the tower.
- About everyone, actually!
- Famous Last Words: "I'm gonna die now, I think."
- "You've got to stick to your principles."
- And quite possibly: "I really, really hoped I wouldn't die."
- Faux Affably Evil: Harry Waters' whole plan is to give Ray the pleasant experience of visiting Bruges before he has Ken kill him. Undercut by the fact that Ray utterly despises fuckin' Bruges.
Harry: [reluctant] I know I shouldn't... but I will.
- First Law of Tragicomedies: Not as adhered to as most: even in the tensest situations, there's comedic exchanges like Ray and Harry concocting a plan to continue their shootout outside.
- Foreshadowing: Ray mentions that attacking or killing someone capable of karate or wielding a bottle as a weapon is justified as it's self defense. A few scenes later, Ray punches a woman who swings a bottle at him, and even insists to ChloŽ it's self defense if they "have a bottle or know karate".
- There's also Harry remarking "I'd like to see Bruges again before I die."
- When Ken first gets to the top of the tower, he makes a finger gun at Ray way down at the bottom and mimes shooting him. He's much less enthused when he's told to do it for real. And even more so when he decides to try and shoot Harry from the tower after being shot in the neck and leg, but finds that the "fantasy land" fog has rolled in.
- When talking to Ken about Ray wanting to kill himself, Harry remarks "He's suicidal. You're suicidal. I'm suicidal. Everybody's fucking suicidal, but we don't go on about it do we?". By the end of the movie both Harry and Ken have killed themselves, and Ray—funnily enough—is the only one who didn't actually commit suicide.
- Funny Foreigner: The officer:
Officer: You heet the Canadian?
Officer: You heet the Canadian?
Ray: [imitating] I heet the Canadian?
- Genre Savvy
: Don't be stupid. This is the shoot-out
- Good Guns, Bad Guns: Discussed:
- Go Through Me: Marie, in the stand-off between Ray and Harry.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: "In my book, though, someone comes at you with a bottle, I'm sorry, that is a deadly weapon, he's gotta take the consequences."
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Harry.
- The Hero Dies: Not explicitly shown, but he does get shot an unpleasantly high number of times in a rather important area of the torso, so it's a pretty good bet he's dead by the time the credits are finished. But still, his fate is unknown and it's left to the audience to decide.
- However, it should be noted that in the last 5 pages of the shooting script, Ray actually survives, taking three months to recover and subsequently moving back to London (only to commit suicide later).
- Heroic Sacrifice: Despite being shot in the leg and neck, Ken manages to climb back up to the bell tower and jump to the ground, alerting Ray to Harry's presence.
- Hookers and Blow
- Hope Spot: Invoked twice. Firstly, Ray is on a train to almost anywhere and freedom, but is arrested and taken back to Bruges because of the asshole Canadian from the restaurant. Later, Ray is then unseen when with ChloŽ, and Ken and Harry then meet an agreement and lay down their weapons; cue Eirik warning Harry he spotted Ray which results in most of the main characters dying in the finale.
- Inelegant Blubbering: In the park when Ray cries into Ken's chest. Definitely not Played for Laughs.
- Infant Immortality: The impetus of the plot.
- Interrupted Suicide: Interrupted by someone trying to kill the guy who is trying to kill himself. Awkward.
- And then this is subverted when Ray tries to stop Harry from committing suicide. He's so wounded that he can't finish his sentence, and Harry dies thinking he killed a child.
- Ironic Echo: Not only does Harry state that he would kill himself on the spot if he did what Ray did, but he ends up effectively doing the exact same thing to a dwarf whom he mistakes for a child.
- Irony: Situational - Ken, about to kill Ray, lowers his gun when he spots he has his revolver; then, when Ray is about to kill himself, Ken puts away his gun and stops Ray killing himself.
- When Harry hears about this, he's absolutely dumbfounded as it would have solved the entire mess he was having to clean up.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: Harry has no problem being told that he is, was and always will be a cunt, but if you call his kids cunts, he gets quite upset.
- Jerkass: Everyone have a fair share of moments for being this. Harry, Eirik and the Canadian guy in particular.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ray may be a rude, bigoted pottymouth, but he feels genuinely guilty for shooting the little boy. Ken tactfully suggests that he might not really be cut out to be a professional killer.
- Kill 'em All: All but one of the lead characters (probably) die; out of Ray, Ken, Harry, ChloŽ and Jimmy, the only people who don't die on screen are ChloŽ and Ray, and the latter has been fatally shot several times.
- Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand: The stand off between Harry and Ken in the tower. Partially subverted when Harry shoots Ken in the leg; fully subverted when Harry shoots to kill to prevent Ken from stopping Harry's attempt to kill Ray.
- Knight Templar: Harry. While it's somewhat understandable that he refuses to forgive the killing of children, he ends up killing himself on the spot when he believes he's violated his own principal rule.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Played for Laughs when Ray talks about accidentally killing someone when his hit went wrong:
: I know I didn't mean to... but because of the choices I made, and the course that I put into action, [he] isn't here anymore, and he'll never be here again. (beat
) ...I mean here in the world, not here in Belgium.
Well he'll never be here in Belgium either, will he? I mean, he might've wanted to come here when he got older. Don't know why.
- Little People Are Surreal: Starts out lampshaded, gets subverted, gets turned into Reality Ensues, and almost edges into being played straight.
- London England Syndrome: In the film's intro narration, because Ray has never heard of the place until he is told to go there.
- London Gangster: Harry. Ken and Ray are London-based but are obviously Irish. Ray explicitly mentions being from Dublin and since Brendan Gleeson uses his own accent Ken is presumably a Dubliner too.
- The Lost Lenore: It's revealed that Ken works for Harry because Harry found and killed the man who murdered Ken's wife. Not only is it brought up for drama, but it happened in the '70s and Ken is still visibly wearing his wedding ring.
- Love Interest: Chloe.
- Mexican Standoff: Played for Laughs in the hotel scene.
- Mood Whiplash: One of the film's defining features. It sometimes even happens mid-scene (such as the scene about the "50-year-old lollipop man who knows karate"). Remember, Tropes Are Not Bad.
- More Dakka: Averted by Harry's choice of weapon when buying guns. He is offered an Uzi, but is disdainful of it, asking for "a normal gun for a normal person".
- My Greatest Failure: Ray can't get over accidentally shooting a little boy.
- It deserves mentioning that this was also apparently on his first job.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The entire trailer is played as a very, very upbeat crime comedy. The marketers must have forgot that it's a Tear Jerker.
- For one, one scene was played in the trailers for (dark) comedy when it was actually the lead-up to the central drama of the piece: Ray pulls off his first hit against the priest, quipping all the way; the clip in the trailer cuts off before he discovers that a stray or overpenetrating bullet killed a small child awaiting confession.
- Noble Demon: Harry has principles.
- No Social Skills: Ray at some points. Not only does he try to woo ChloŽ by talking about how famous midgets and dwarves tend to kill themselves, but he calls her hometown a shithole in conversation:
- Not So Different: The repeating motifs make for a lot of this between the main characters. For instance, in the scene where Harry gets his gun from Yuri, his lines about not intending to "shoot twenty black ten-year-olds in a fucking drive-by" and wanting "a normal gun for a normal person" are reminiscent of Ray taunting the skinhead about "beating up Pakistani twelve-year-olds" and, earlier, having "a normal beer, because I am normal."
- No, You: Harry's response to his wife's statement that the phone he's smashing is "an inanimate fucking object".
"You're an inanimate fucking object!"
- Odd Couple: Pensive, knowledge-seeking Ken vs. twitchy, hedonistic Ray.
- One-Hit Polykill: In his first job, one of Ray's bullets passed through the priest (his target) and kills a little boy; Harry later accidentally kills Jimmy with a bullet that passes through Ray.
- Overly Long Gag: Ken trying to make five Euro out of his coins to avoid having to break a bill.
- Prank Date: Naturally, it doesn't go according to plan.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: In the flashback, Ray tries one of these before shooting the priest through the confessional.
- Precision F-Strike: The hotel owner, Marie telling Ray and Harry to fuck off.
- Pregnant Badass: Marie, the hotel owner. While not kicking huge amounts of ass in the traditional sense, she shows enormous courage, standing up to an armed man and refusing to let him upstairs. Even Harry is impressed, and decides to negotiate with Ray to take the fight outside.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Played straight with regular bullets. Avoided when the "dum-dums" get used.
- Professional Killer: Ken, Ray, Harry.
- Punch Clock Villain: All three leads.
- Punctuated Poking: "The. Tower. Is. Closed. This. Evening! Understand? Englishman?"
- Reality Ensues: The blanks-in-the-face scene. What many people tend to ignore is that blanks can be downright lethal if the calibre is big enough, or if fired into a sensible part of the head.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Harry to Eirik, after hearing about how Ray blinded him with his own blank-firing pistol:
Harry: I mean, basically, if you're robbing a man and you're only carrying blanks and you allow your gun to be taken off you and you allow yourself to be shot in the eye with a blank, which I assume that the person has to get quite close to you, then, yeah, really it's all your fault for being such a poof, so why don't you stop whinging and cheer the fuck up?
- Reckless Gun Usage: Averted beautifully. Ken is very careful with his guns. Harry locks his guns away when he's at home so his kids can't get at them. Both Ken and Harry practice good trigger discipline throughout the film. Ray is a bit more careless, but as he's much younger, reckless and a bit suicidal, this is in character for him (and he never points a gun at anyone he doesn't want to kill, though his occasional poor aim when he does want to kill someone tends to get him in trouble.) At one point a man tries to rob Ray with a gun loaded with blanks ó Ray wrestles the gun off him and fires into the man's face at point-blank range. The blanks leave him permanently blind in one eye.
- Red Herring: Played With. The pistol Ray steals from Eirik is fired twice with blanks (once to test, once to blind Eirik), but never fired after being loaded with live rounds; Ken stops Ray from committing suicide with it, Ray hesitates using it on Harry for fear of hitting Marie, and the gun is then dropped in the canal before Ray can fire back at Harry.
- Redemption Equals Death: Maybe. This depends on whether Ray survives, which is left deliberately ambiguous.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Averted. Ray laments that his revolver is "a bloody girl's gun" when Ken shows him his own automatic.
- Sarcastic Confession: Ray confessing to My Greatest Failure on a first date, and Chloe admitting to her profession in response, both laughing it off as a big joke.
- Say My Name Trailer: "Bruges." "Bruges." "Bruges." "Bruges." "Where is that?" "It's in Belgium."
- Scenery Porn: Lots of shots showcasing the beauty of Bruges.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: Lots of 'em, mostly pertaining to fuckin' Bruges.
- Shadow Discretion Shot: When Harry is beating the tower guard for poking him in the forehead repeatedly.
- Shout-Out: A very obscure one. Ken and Ray check into their hotel using the names 'Cranham' and 'Blakely'. In 1985, The BBC broadcast a TV version of Harold Pinter's play The Dumb Waiter, a two-hander about two hitmen sitting around in a room awaiting instructions. The hitmen in the BBC version were played by actors Kenneth Cranham and Colin Blakely.
- Not to mention the entire Bosch's paintings subplot.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Ray and Ken, concerning the fat Americans about to view the Belfry of Bruges.
- Also, Ray and Harry both independently come to the conclusion that Eirik is a "poof".
- Tempting Fate: The tower guard repeatedly prodding Harry in the face, as he just stands there paralysed with fury. Yeah, you might not want to do that...
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Ken looks out across Bruges and say to himself "I like it here." Actually kind of a sweet moment, with Ken visibly excited about how much he likes it that he feels the need to say it out loud.
- Title Drop: Sort of. The sentence "In Bruges?" actually occurs once, with all other mentions being some variation of "In fucking Bruges?!"
- Too Dumb to Live: In Harry's opinion, Erik, the man who tried to mug Ray with a gun full of blanks. See "The Reason You Suck" Speech for details.
- Verbal Tic: "In fuckin' Bruges" would be a more fitting title.
- Villain Protagonist: Ray, Ken and Harry themselves. They are, after all, hitmen and a mob boss, respectively.
- The Voice: Subverted. At first, every scene of the movie takes place in Bruges, and Harry (who's in London) only interacts Ken and Ray via the telephone, so it seems like this trope applies to him. Then, about two thirds into the movie, Ken is speaking on the phone with Harry, and all of a sudden the film cuts to his London apartment, and we see that Harry is Ralph Fiennes, so it's easy to guess he'll play a larger role for the rest of the movie.
- Wall of Weapons: Yuri the arms dealer has guns all over every wall of his establishment.
- With All Due Respect: Ken gives Harry this, paired with a Sincerity Mode statement, before leaping into a Country Matters Cluster F-Bomb.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Harry won't push past the pregnant hotel owner to get up the stairs at Ray. This might be due to his Wouldn't Hurt a Child rule, though. Averted when Ray hits the Canadian woman, though he's put on the defensive about it later and insists that it was self defense. She did try to swing a bottle into his face.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Harry is very protective of children, possibly due to having several of his own. This becomes a major plot point.
- World Limited to the Plot: Bruges. We get a brief glimpse of Harry's domestic life, a flashback to Ray's fuckup at the church, and a train escape sequence that never goes anywhere — Ray is led right back to Bruges.
- Your Head A Splode: The dum dum bullets are said to do this. Hence Harry taking a whole box of them.