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Film / In Bruges

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"...Fucking Bruges."

In Bruges is a 2008 tragicomedy about two Irish hitmen hiding out in Belgium. Ray (Colin Farrell) is a rookie with a foul mouth, a fouler disposition, and a bizarre obsession with "midgets". Ken (Brendan Gleeson) 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, English gangster Harry (Ralph Fiennes), 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 film is the first directorial effort of by British/Irish theatre director/playwright Martin McDonagh.

This movie provides examples of:

  • invokedAcceptable Targets: Parodied a bit with Americans. Ray is clearly disdainful of them, he pisses one off by calling him fat. When Ken tries to helpfully tell him that he shouldn't try climbing the belltower shortly after, he gets told to fuck off. Ken looks baffled by this but then realizes Ray is to blame for the outburst from Ray's expression. Later Ray punches another American at a restaurant who was just angry that Ray's date was blowing smoke at them, and then punches the man's wife when she swings a bottle at him while blaming them for the Vietnam War and John Lennon's death. When it turns out that they were really Canadians, he feels guilty about punching them.
  • Accidental Child-Killer Backstory: The Collateral Damage variant. Rookie hitman Ray is sent to Bruges after royally screwing up his first assignment: shooting a Catholic priest in a confession booth, only for a stray bullet to kill a little boy waiting to give confession. While he appears snarky on the outside, the guilt is quickly making him manic and suicidal.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A Perspective Flip of the ratio of quiet to action scenes.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In the original script, Ray and Ken are English, but when Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson came on board, the characters were changed to Irish as to suit their natural sensibilities.
  • 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.
    • At best, he also Wouldn't Hurt a Child, and kills himself after believing he has, in accordance with the principle he held Ray to. He even has trouble killing Ken without a fight, refuses to have a shootout around a bunch of civilians and tourists, and even works with Ray to shoo a pregnant woman who won't leave the room, finally agreeing to have their fight outside so as not to shoot up her house.
    • Even when Harry buys special bullets that cause head explosions, he acts like someone breaking a diet:
    Harry: [reluctant] I know I shouldn't... but I will.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Whatever you think of Harry, his death is pretty tragic, killing himself because he thinks (incorrectly) that he has just accidentally shot a child dead. The fact that Ray, the guy Harry was just trying to murder a few moments beforehand for doing the literal same thing, actually tries to stop him makes it even worse.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Ken. He is barely alive enough to warn Ray about Harry. Then he dies.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Ray was shot several times through his back, but an ambulance arrived on scene to rescue him. While his narration remains when he's carried into the ambulance, the movie ends right as the dying Ray gets loaded into the ambulance, leaving it open if he will live or die. As for the redemption storyline, it is left open as to whether or not Ray redeemed himself from the guilt, and if he will continue to stay in a metaphorical purgatory or go to heaven or hell.
  • 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.
  • Anyone Can Die: All but one of the lead characters (probably) die; out of Ray, Ken, Harry, Chloë and Jimmy, the only people who don't die on screen are Chloë and Ray, and the latter has been fatally shot several times.
  • 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 we're still in fucking Bruges.
  • Ate His Gun: Harry does this in the final scene.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, They're Filming Midgets!
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: Most of the soundtrack is tinkly piano music, of the sort that is played while the camera focuses on the ripples made by a swan's passage through a canal. However, towards the end of the movie, in the first genuine action sequence, a snarling electric guitar shows up.
  • Backhanded Apology: Does this sound like an apology?
    Harry: You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!
    Ken: I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids.
  • Bathos: Along with the black comedy elements, the story also explores themes of morality. Lines like "I'm gonna die now, I think."
  • 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:
    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.
    Harry: Leave my kids fucking out of it! What have they done? You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!
    Ken: I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids.
    Harry: Insult my fucking kids? That's going overboard, mate!
    Ken: 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, presumably for racist reasons.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Ken.
  • Bittersweet Ending / Downer Ending: Depending on whether you think Ray dies of his wounds at the end. While Ken, Jimmy and Harry are all dead, the only real upside is that in his ending monologue, he has realized he doesn't want to die.
  • Black Comedy: From that black part of the light spectrum that only Martin Scorsese can see.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Ray at the end.
  • Brick Joke: Ken and Harry aren't allowed in the tower because "an American had a heart attack".
  • 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. Harry doesn't take it lightly.
  • Call-Back:
    • The Canadian woman coming at Ray with a bottle.
    • Ray calling Jimmy "short-arse."
    • After being shot, Ray murmurs, "The little boy," when he sees Jimmy, the same words the priest utters during Ray's botched hit.
  • 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.
  • Catchphrase : "You an American?"
    "Yeah... but don't hold it against me."
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The tower custodian refusing to take Ken's just-short spare change. Ken tosses the coins from the tower to warn passers-by below that he's going to jump to his death.
    • Earlier in the film, Ray claims the buildings will look better at night when they're all lit up. In the film's climax, the very same lights prevent Ken from seeing down to the street and shooting Harry.
    • The dumdum rounds Harry accepts from Yuri. During the final chase, he reloads his clip with several of them, eventually leading to him shooting one through Ray and right into Jimmy's head, exploding it and making it impossible for Harry to tell he's a dwarf, not a child.
    • Subverted with the pistol Ray steals from Eirik. It 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.
    • Subverted as well with Ken's gun as well. He is given it to kill Ray, something he never goes through with. He keeps it with him for a possible showdown with Harry, but ultimately refuses to shoot Harry out of gratitude for all Harry had done for him. He finally puts in within his clothes to keep it secure when he jumps off the top of the bell tower to warn Ray that Harry was coming, so Ray would have it to protect himself, but it completely breaks from the force of impact with the ground.
    • About the only thing that never becomes relevant again after being introduced, whether by actual use or subversion, is the acid and ecstasy Ray stole and gave to Ken near the end. After he does, it never comes up again.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Canadians that Ray knocked out.
  • Children Are Special: The impetus of the plot.
  • Closed Circle: Aside from a flashback, a scene on a train, and a scene at Harry's house, the entire movie takes place in Bruges, much to Ray's displeasure. As he is possibly dying at the end, Ray wonders if Purgatory might be the rest of eternity spent in fuckin Bruges.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Ray, sometimes Ken, and lampshadingly-so with Harry Waters.
    "Geez, he swears a lot, don't he? note 
  • Collateral Damage: Ray performs a hit on a priest and manages to also accidentally kill an altar boy in the process. Harry's gun ends up over-penetrating when he shoots Ray, killing Jimmy in the process.
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: Ray's attempted suicide is an absolutely heartwrenching scene in an otherwise darkly comedic film.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Happens to Ray himself.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Ray probably would've gotten farther if only the train he traveled on didn't also happen to carry the very same Canadian couple he previously assaulted, who recognize him and get him escorted by the police back to Bruges.
  • Convenient Escape Boat / Off Bridge, onto Vehicle: Ray, attempting to outrun Harry, jumps onto a bypassing boat. Unfortunately, he drops his gun after landing, and gets shot anyway.
  • Country Matters: Unleashed no less than twelve times. "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."
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Ray is a neurotic mess who badly bungles his hitman job, but he also casually wins every hand-to-hand fight he has, including disarming a man with a gun pointed at him and One Hit Punching out several others.
  • Deadly Road Trip: Two hitmen are sent to relax in Bruges by their boss who wants the younger hitman to have a nice holiday before whacking him for accidentally killing a child during a hit.
  • Deadpan Snarker: More like World of Snark, since various characters try to out-match one another.
  • Death by Cameo: Ciarán Hinds as the priest Ray kills in the prologue. Not the first time Hinds' murder by Irish gangsters set off a plot.
  • Death of a Child: This is something Harry Waters cannot tolerate the hitmen he hires doing. So what happens when one of his new recruit does this by mistake? He attempts to have the said hitman killed.
  • Description Cut: Ken tells Harry that Ray could be in any of the million towns in mainland Europe by this time. Cut to Ray being released from his jail cell in Bruges.
  • 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.
  • Dressing to Die: Ken dressing himself up before a mirror for his last day.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Guilt-ridden Ray, in a case of Interrupted Suicide.
    • Harry, once he mistakenly assumed he's killed a child.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Ken downs a couple of pints after receiving the order to off his partner. When Ray joins, he lampshades the trope.
    Ray: Hey-ho. Drowning your sorrows, huh?
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The "Race War" rant from Jimmy draws this reaction from nearly everyone else in the room, especially Ken. Even Ray, who is still laughing, is mostly laughing at the stupidity of the idea. Jimmy himself later blames it on cocaine, a drug that can quite easily turn nice guys into arrogant arseholes.
  • Eagleland: Parodied with Jimmy the dwarf:
    Ken: You from the States?
    Jimmy: Yeah. Don't 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).
  • 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.
  • Fakeout Escape: Discussed by Harry during the Mexican Standoff at the hotel.
    Harry: Do you [Ray] completely promise to jump into the canal? I don't want to run out there, come back in 10 minutes and find you fucking hiding in a cupboard.
  • Fighting Irish: Ray and Ken to some extent, based on their accents.
  • 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 Chloë it's self defense if they "have a bottle or know karate".
    • Harry's honor code against killing children.
    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.
    • 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.
    • Ray constantly commenting on how many midgets end up shooting themselves in the head.
  • Funny Foreigner: The officer:
    Officer: You heet the Canadian?
    Ray: What?
    Officer: You heet the Canadian?
    Ray: [imitating] I heet the Canadian?
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Discussed:
    Harry: An Uzi? I'm not from South Central Los fucking Angeles. I didn't come here to shoot twenty black ten-year olds in a fucking drive-by. I want a normal gun for a normal person.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • During the final confrontation, Ray makes a spectacular landing on a boat, putting some distance between Harry and himself. Unfortunately, it is not enough because he loses his gun and then gets shot.
  • Hollywood Blanks: Averted. A petty crook tries to rob one of the main characters, who he doesn't realize is a much more dangerous gangster. The main character takes the crook's gun away from him and shoots him in the face. The gun turns out to be loaded with blanks, but the blast of flame and hot gas destroys one of the petty crook's eyes. The main character then upbraids him for being stupid enough to try to rob somebody without real bullets in the gun.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Ray: "Stop whinging like a big gay baby... *whining* I haven't had a shag in months!"
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: Harry has this response when Ken tells him about Ray feeling suicidal.
    Harry: When I phoned you yesterday, did I ask you, "Ken, would you do me a favour and become Ray's psychiatrist, please?" No. What I think I asked you was, "Would you go blow his fucking head off for me?"
  • Inelegant Blubbering: In the park when Ray cries into Ken's chest. Definitely not Played for Laughs.
  • 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.
  • Implied Rape: Though the priest is not explicitly a pedophile (he's killed for trying to stop a housing project), all the characters suspect that he could be one. Harry especially loathes priests, Wouldn't Hurt a Child, and describes his childhood holiday in Bruges as one of his last happy memories, which might suggest that he was molested as a child by a priest.
  • 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.
    • Ken and Harry, about Bruges being "a fairytale fucking town / like a (fucking) fairytale or something".
  • 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.
      Harry: This gets fuckin' worse! Let me get this right, not only have you refused to kill the boy, you've even stopped the boy from killing himself. Which would have solved my problem, which would've solved your problem, which sounds like it would've solved the boy's problem.
  • 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.
  • It's What I Do: When the arms dealer asks Ken if he is gonna kill his partner, Ken responds with this line.
  • Jerkass: Everyone have a fair share of moments for being this. Harry, Eirik and the Canadian guy in particular.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Harry may be a foulmouthed violent psychopath, but there's no arguing with his logic on this point.
    Harry: I'm sorry Ken. But you can't kill a kid and expect to get away with it. You just can't.
    • When the man in the restaurant is upset about getting smoke blown in his face, Ray could have just let it go, but he escalates it into a fight just because he thinks the man is an uppity American. That said, he first points out to the man that they're sitting in the smoking section of the restaurant.
    • When the overweight American tourist ask Ray about the tower, he strongly advises against it and is even polite about it initially before losing his patience and calls him and his family 'elephants'. Even more so when it's revealed the tourist had an heart attack going up the tower thus causing to be closed.
  • 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 Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: The standoff 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:
    Ray: 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 have wanted to come here when he got older. I don't know why.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Except for the flashback, Ray wears a single outfit throughout the whole movie. While he does remove his jacket and unbutton his shirt, he has no other change of clothes. Ken, on the other hand, has several wardrobe changes.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Chloe tells Ray they used the dwarf actor for a dream sequence.
  • Little Useless Gun: When comparing weapons, Ray notes that Ken has a suppressor on his, then laments that his snubnose revolver is "a bloody girl's gun".
  • 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.
  • Liquid Courage: Ray takes a pointed gulp of his bottle before racing off to flirt with a gorgeous girl;
  • 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.
  • Manly Tears: After a trying day, Ray finally collapses into Ken's arms in tears overwhelmed with guilt over killing the little boy.
  • 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". Considering his accuracy with the pistol from distance in the shootout aiming for and hitting a moving target (Ray) in centre mass with just the iron sights, this may have been for the best.
  • Mugging the Monster: The crook who tries to rob Ray.
  • 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 Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Despite being kind of a Jerkass, Jimmy seems genuinely concerned when Ray stumbles onto the film set Jimmy is working on bleeding from a bullet wound and goes to check on him. This leads to him getting his head blown off by an overpenetrating bullet of Harry's.
  • 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!"
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Having both revealed their professions to one another, Chloë jokingly tells Ray he looks like the sort of hit-man who'd kill children.
  • 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.
  • The Oner: Ken's phone conversation with Harry is filmed in a single six-minute take. This is lampshaded at the start of the scene where Ken is watching the famous introduction from Touch of Evil.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The fat American patriarch is played by a Welshman, which shows particularly when he angrily exclaims "Right you!" - a very British saying - at Ken as he tries to beat him up.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Ray at some points. Not only does he try to woo Chloë by talking about how famous midgets and dwarves tend to kill themselves, but he calls her hometown a shithole in conversation:
    Chloë: Okay. So, you've insulted my home town. You were doing really well, Raymond. Why don't you tell me some Belgium jokes while you're at it?
    Ray: Don't know any Belgium jokes, and if I did I think I'd have the good sense not to— (Beat) ...hang on. Is Belgium with all those child abuse murders lately? I do know a Belgium joke. What's Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse, and they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids.
  • Overly-Long Gag: Ken trying to make five Euro out of his coins to avoid having to break a note.
  • Percussive Therapy: When Ken tells Harry over the phone that he is not following his orders, the latter takes his anger out on the telephone.
  • Place Worse Than Death: Bruges, for Ray. It's one of the main gags of the film, and it gets to be explored comically (everybody drops an F-strike about the place at least once), tragically (the whole idea of sending Ray here was to give him a nice final few days) and even gets existential about it (Ray actually wonders whether or not the city is his personal Purgatory).
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: After Harry shoots Ken in the leg instead of killing him, he scathingly compares Ken to "Robert fucking Powell". Ken has no idea who he's talking about and he has to clarify: Robert Powell who played Jesus in Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Prank Date: It's left ambiguous if Chloe's date with Ray was intended to be one of these.
  • 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.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: In the flashback, Ray tries one of these before shooting the priest through the confessional.
  • 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?"
  • Rasputinian Death: Ken gets shot in the arm, then a much deadlier shot in the chest, then jumps off the cathedral to alert Ray.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Harry to Eirik (Jérémie Renier), 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 — 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.
  • Recurring Camera Shot: The repeated scene of a child/dwarf being head-shot via One-Hit Polykill. In both cases, the shooters see that they accidentally killed someone. In the flashback, the priest's last words after getting shot by Ray are "The boy" as he falls over. At the end after getting shot repeatedly, Ray says the same thing before falling over.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • The last scene where Ray stumbles on to the set and he sees all the costumes: the imagery is akin to the paintings of the last judgement; the animal heads, animal skulls, peasant looking people. Plus the dwarf dressed as a schoolboy represents his sin right before he is shot (his judgement). However, he attempts to save Harry by telling him that the dwarf is not a child despite the fact that Harry tried to kill him, thus redeeming himself, so he lives.
    • Ray notes that waiting in Bruges may be hell for him, however it was more than likely Ken's idea of Heaven. The waiting in Bruges before his judgement may represent purgatory.
  • 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 Dissonance: Type 1. The beauty of the titular city is a plot point. Almost all the main characters die, some of them very gorily.
  • Scenery Porn: The film has 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.
    • The film that the dwarf is taking part in is directly stated to be a pretentious ripoff of Don't Look Now.
      • And there's more to it: in both Don't Look Now and In Bruges mistaking a dwarf for a child leads to literally lethal consequences.
    • Ken is watching Touch of Evil in his hotel when Harry calls, the rest of the scene is done in a single six-minute take.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Harry. Ray even lampshades this when reading his letter.
  • Snow Means Death: It starts snowing during the climax during which the body count goes up from 1 to 4.
  • Straight Gay: Ken, at least according to Ray. If so, Ken certainly shows none of the stereotypical mannerisms, quite the opposite.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: 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." Both independently come to the conclusion that Eirik is a "poof".
    • Ray and Ken, concerning the fat Americans about to view the Belfry of Bruges.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • 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. Eirik should be glad he's still alive.
    • Murdering somebody, especially if it is your first time doing so, is not particularly easy, can get very messy, and rarely goes according to plan. And sometimes collateral damage can't be helped...
    • Guns aren't invincible death-dealing instruments of destruction, they're machines and they can break very easily. After Ken jumps from the top of a building holding it onto hard cobblestone ground, it's been completely smashed to pieces.
  • Tempting Fate: Ray thinking that Harry's out of range with his pistol.
  • 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.
  • Twisted Christmas: Marie mentions early on that Christmas is nigh. Fittingly, it's in the context of there being no room at the inn (which pisses Ray off because it means he must share one with Kenn).
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: The beautiful Belgian city is visited by many tourists, but Ray is hostile to Americans in particular. He offends a family of them when he calls them fat. When another tourist annoys him he strikes the man, blaming Americans for the Vietnam War and the death of John Lennon. He later regrets this mistake: the man is Canadian.
  • 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.
  • Wicked Cultured: Veteran hitman Ken has a deep understanding and appreciation of medieval architecture and art, and spends most of his free time enjoying the historical sights of Bruges.
  • With All Due Respect: Ken gives Harry this, paired with a Sincerity Mode statement, before leaping into a Country Matters Cluster F-Bomb.
  • 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.
  • Would Hit a Girl: When Ray punches 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 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.
  • 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.
    • Ray seems to share this philosophy. Which is why the fact he accidentally blew one away in a botched hit right before coming to Bruges has almost completely shattered him as a person.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The dum-dum bullets are said to do this. Hence Harry taking a whole box of them. This actually leads to his suicide as one of his bullets blows up the midget Jimmy's head, leading Harry to think he had killed a child.


Harry, let's face it...

Ken tells Harry in no uncertain terms what his overriding character defect is.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

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