In Bruges


In Bruges (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Martin McDonagh
viewed: 02/19/08 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, SF, CA

I can’t hardly say the last time I went to the Kabuki, but it’s been years.  When I first moved to San Francisco in December of 1990, the Kabuki was the only real megaplax, major mutliple screen movie theater and was a real center for mainstream films in the city.  At that time, it was owned by AMC, and I always found it kind of nicely designed, abutting the Japantown mall, the view from the top floor through the broadside windows facing north offered a nice, though not extensive view of Pacific Heights rooftops.

When the 1000 Van Ness theater opened, only a few blocks back toward town, featuring even more screens and also operated by AMC, the Kabuki took a pretty big hit.  It became the poorer sister in terms of the films that got shown there and the traffic dropped significantly.  When the Metreon opened not much later, the Kabuki dropped even more.  And for me, not being so convenient a location based on my personal track of the city, it diminished in visits.  I think it was dying, if not almost dead.

Then, in 2007, they remodeled the theater, now operated by the Sundance group, associated with Robert Redford’s notable film festival and television network.  The remodeling is quite surface, but significantly different, mod and hip, attempting to look a bit more like a lounge or a club than the average theater.  And on the top floor of the largest screen in the theater, they feature a full bar and a restaurant of lightish fare, with assigned seating and tables for your food and cocktails.  It costs a bit extra and the drinks aren’t cheap, but it’s a kind of interesting affair that I can imagine a lot of a certain type of San Franciscans really taking to.  I liked it because it wasn’t crowded when I went, late afternoon on a weekday, martini in hand to watch the film, In Bruges.

All that about the theater.  About the film: I’d read that it was a pretty good film, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, a well-known English playwright with steep roots in Ireland.  His first feature film, compared with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch. (2000), Guy Ritchie’s poppy, oddball comedies about London criminals running amok, it was thought to be more interesting and richer than Ritchie’s films.

From the opening credit sequence, I immediately disagreed.  The film features Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as two hitmen shuffled off to Bruges, Belgium after a botched hit that killed an innocent child.  Gleeson is the intelligent one, Farrell is the grousing newbie, who constantly calls Bruges “a shithole”.

I think the real problem is the direction and editing of the film.  The humor comes across more in the trailer than it does in its placement and tempo in the film.  Nothing works.  Moments of comedy, moments of sentiment, all fall flat.

I’ve been to Bruges, climbed the belltower, trundled around the town.  It was one of the first cities in Europe that I visited, knowing nothing about it, hitting it on a whim because of a recommendation from one hostel to another.  Bruges does look lovely in the film, lovelier than I remember, though I always did think it was nice.

Bottom line, this film is crap.  At least Guy Ritchie’s films are fun and silly, whatever negativity that is pushed on them.  He has a sense of handling pacing, tempo, comedy, delivery.  This film just clunked along.  Don’t see it.

But do check out the new Kabuki.  It’s kind of fun.

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