Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Nineteen cumulative yards of bad hitman comedy should’ve sufficed for a decade. But joining The Whole Nine Yards and The Whole Ten Yards were the annoyingly yakkety-yak You Kill Me and the politically overwrought War Inc., a sad sort-of sequel to the great Grosse Pointe Blank.
The great ones (The Matador, Panic) cut to the core of chaos and crisis in a bad profession for conscience to come calling. Still, neither went for the jocular or the jugular with such gusto as 2007’s In Bruges.
Moonlighting playwright Martin McDonagh quickly yanked a trapdoor on his gallows humor — jerking from wry cringe comedy to a surreal congregation of blinded skinheads, fat Americans and midgets on drug benders before a violent, solemn climactic parable about purgatory.
After a simple job acquires a high profile, hitman Ray (Colin Farrell) and his mentor, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are ordered to lay low in the titular Belgian city by brutish boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes, a barking, brawling villain with twisted avenging-angel tendencies). The trio tears into its banter with the intimacy of the stage, even as Ray and Ken’s disobedience brings irate Harry to Bruges.
In a less crowded year, Farrell would’ve landed an Oscar nomination. Ray’s snide, snotty stir-craziness becomes understandable in a place of such lengthy history and death. Through his anguish, the second half feels like an ether-induced nightmare — a nod of the head to Hieronymus Bosch’s featured apocalyptic artwork. The end result is a disarming, dizzying, demented karmic carousel ride worth taking.