In Bruges, 18
Flashbacks of a Fool, 15
Street Kings, 15

Gangster romp on the cobbles has the makings of a cult classic

In Bruges is an outrageous, violent and oddly reflective comic thriller that's destined to become a much-quoted cult classic, even if it isn't a smash at the box office. It stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two Irish gangland hitmen who messed up their last job in London, and have been packed off to Bruges by their enigmatic boss until the heat dies down.

Gleeson is captivated by the canals and cobbles of Belgium's most beautiful medieval town, and drags his junior partner around every cathedral and museum in his guidebook. However, Farrell isn't interested in history – "it's all just a load of stuff that's already happened," he sulks. And he doesn't perk up until he stumbles on to a film set and meets a pretty drug dealer (Clémence Poésy) and a dwarf actor (Jordan Prentice) with a thing for prostitutes and horse tranquilliser.

It might sound like a post-Tarantino gangster romp, and, sure enough, In Bruges is a blood-spurting, guns-blazing yarn with enough brazenly un-PC cracks about nationality, sexuality, height and weight to offend anyone who's in the mood to be offended.

But there are times when the action pauses to establish a bleaker atmosphere of minor-key piano music and wintry shots of the misty gothic buildings. Farrell's character, we learn, isn't as blasé about his job as he first appears, and his laddish bravado keeps giving way to the finger-chewing fear and grief of a lost child.

The delicacy with which Martin McDonagh, the writer-director, balances two such contrasting tones probably has something to do with his past as a multi-award-winning playwright. Expect him to be known as a multi-award-winning film-maker in future.

Another first-time writer-director from the British Isles, Baillie Walsh, also happens to be one of Daniel Craig's best friends, and it's clear that Walsh's appallingly self-indulgent melodrama, Flashbacks of a Fool, would never have been financed if it weren't for the prospect of James Bond fans paying to see Craig's naked bum in the first 10 minutes. The film goes downhill fast as soon as he puts his trousers on.

Craig plays Joe, a fading Hollywood movie star. "You have squandered every opportunity you've ever been given," yells his agent, when Joe wakes up after his latest coke-fuelled threesome – an indication of the subtlety to follow.After a symbolic walk into the ocean, Joe thinks back to The Summer That Changed Everything, when he was a teenager (played by Harry Eden) in the early Seventies. The bulk of the film is set in an English seaside town, but Walsh's evocation of the era has none of the distinctive personal detail that Garth Jennings brought to the Eighties in Son of Rambow.

In Flashbacks of a Fool, 1972 equals flared trousers, playing pinball, and discussing who's better, David Bowie or Roxy Music, all of which could have been gleaned from an episode of I Love the 1970s.

Street Kings is directed by the writer of Training Day, and based on a James Ellroy story, so it's no surprise that it's a tough, noirish Los Angeles crime thriller in which the corrupt cops shoot first and plant evidence later. But Keanu Reeves, investigating the murder of his ex-partner, is no Russell Crowe or Denzel Washington.

He always looks as if he would rather have a snooze than assault an informant – and he'd have to be half-asleep not to solve a case as obvious as this one inno time.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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