A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this violent action dramedy is focused on the relationship between two professional assassins. While their conversations range from darkly comic to philosophical, the film's imagery is incessantly brutal and bloody. Weapons include guns, knives, and fists. A young boy is shot in the head, a man is stabbed, men punch and kick, there's an attempted suicide by gun, a man falls off a tower (graphic images of his crushed body), and heads and limbs are decimated. There's some sexual imagery -- particularly a brief roll on a bed that's interrupted by a jealous, gun-toting boyfriend -- as well as nonstop language (especially "f--k") and strong drug imagery.
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What's the story?
The title of IN BRUGES is increasingly resonant, as two hit men -- Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) -- are dispatched to Belgium following a botched job in London. Ray hates the place, so full of history, while Ken is moved by the art and architecture. Each man's reaction to Bruges parallels his moral journey. Overcome by the guilt over what went wrong during his first assignment, Ray alternately frets, contemplates suicide, and acts out aggressively, while Ken tries to soothe him with sightseeing trips and philosophical chats. Temporarily distracted by the beautiful Chloe; (Clemence Poesy), Ray doesn't know that Ken has received grave instructions from their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). As Ray contemplates suicide, Ken considers sacrificing himself to save Ray; both options are trumped, however, by Harry's observance of a strict moral code, which is underscored and undermined by the fact that he is, after all, a brutal gangster.
Is it any good?
Anglo-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's first feature is darkly comic and dense with quick dialogue. It recalls films by Quentin Tarantino, in which desperate, violent characters discuss their life choices and relationships while simultaneously committing heinous acts. While the action is showy and the blood spurty, it's the evolving intimacy between Ken and Ray that is most compelling. Gleeson is especially moving as the aging Ken, who's realizing at long last the emotional and ethical costs of his career as he sees the effects on his newbie partner. Their conversations -- undertaken while walking through cobbled streets, ornate churches, and art museums -- suggest a thoughtful underside to all the nasty antics.
At the same time, the film delivers a now-familiar sort of garish brutality, fast-paced and sharply critical of the banalities that shape pop culture. The subplots are cacophonous and telling, one concerning a movie-within-the-movie inspired by Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (another film about the confusing links between guilt and righteousness) and another involving a "midget" actor named Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), whose frustrations with Ray's simplistic-seeming moral scheme serve as evocative comedy and complicate the movie's examination of genre, morality, and power hierarchies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in the movie. Is it gratuitous? Why or why not? What are the consequences of the assassins' violent acts?
What commentary is the movie making on the role of violence in today's culture?
Contrast Ray and Ken. What are their differences and similarities? What role do guilt and a sense of remorse play for both men?
For kids who love thrills
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