Tarantino meets Ingmar Bergman. A blacker-than-black comedy about two soulful hit men ...
OK, many of you have already decided not to see this movie. After
all, how many more movies do we need about the murder-for-hire
profession? Hit men must be more overrepresented in the cinema
universe than rogue cops who play by their own rules. Hired guns now
exist as a convenient shortcut for lazy screenwriters to say "this
guy is an amoral anti-hero" without employing any actual character
development. And the ultimate cliché is when hit men show surprising
Plus, let's face it, how good can a movie about hit men really
be? You know it is not going to tackle any profound themes like
genocide, war, or world hunger
I know all that. And if that is your attitude, I agree with you
Now try to set all that aside, because this is a nearly
perfect little gem of a movie.
To begin with, it has an intricate, twisty, economical little
plot in which every detail is important and is used later in the
film, in the manner of the best Seinfeld episodes. There is a dwarf in the film playing an actor in a dream
sequence from a Eurocrap film-within-the-film. That seems like a throwaway joke at first, but the way it
plays out, it is absolutely essential at one moment in the film that
he be a dwarf, and it is absolutely essential that he be in costume
for a dream sequence. That's only one example. One could make the
same case about nearly every one of the film's quirky details and
But that's not the reason why it is a terrific movie. The nifty
little plot is just a lagniappe.
The profane, scathing dialogue is often laugh-out-loud hilarious
in a kind of Monty Python way that alternates between lowbrow
cynicism and erudite observations.
But that's not why the movie is so good.
The three main actors are outstanding. The photography of Bruge
But none of that is important.
What makes the film so good is that every single character in the
film is a complicated human being, sometimes good, sometimes bad,
sometimes funny, sometimes just saying things they regret later.
Everyone. Even the racist dwarf, who is often stoned on horse tranquilizers
and/or dressed up in a schoolboy outfit, turns out to be much more than
a convenient comic conceit or a mandatory plot element. This is a
film about people, and how they conceive honor, nobility, personal
responsibility and loyalty.
It's a terrific script. It's only March as I write this, but I
will be surprised if the rest of the year brings five scripts good
enough to edge Martin McDonagh from the list of those who deserve an
Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.
And remember what I said about our automatic assumption that a
black comedy about hit men could not deal with truly recondite
themes? That assumption is wrong. Underneath the ostensible
vulgarity is a film about why we want to live and why we want to
die. It doesn't get any more meaningful than that.