Whatever you think of McDonagh’s plays . . . Let me start that again. Martin McDonagh, the playwright, has here made a movie which is neither play-like enough to provide stage pleasures nor movie-like enough to provide screen pleasures. We shouldn’t be surprised. There’s only one playwright I know of — David Mamet — who understands the screen as well as the stage; the exception, I think, proves the rule. Remember Pinter’s awful Turtle Diary? Of course you don’t; no one does, for good reason.
I am sure that the cast and crew had a very nice time shooting in Bruges and drinking the lovely beer there, but the result of their effort is utterly lacking in fizz. The characters are one-dimensional caricatures, the plot manages to be both simplistic and creakily contrived (watch near the midpoint for the ten full minutes spent ginning up a reason why Farrell’s escape will be foiled at the climax), and whenever the director seems unsure of what to do next, he just points the camera at a nice old building or a canal with a swan in it, as if to say, well, at least it’s a pretty view, eh?
On a meta-note. The reviews for this film are so wildly over the top that it’s really worth thinking about why. Maybe people are desperate to believe that Europe still looks like this, when it really looks like this? Or everyone wants to get lost in Colin Farrell’s eyebrows? (I personally prefer him sans.) Not sure, but something’s fishy.