The film earned Farrell the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, while Gleeson was nominated for the same. McDonagh won the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Carrying out orders, rookie hitman Ray shoots a priest during confession, but accidentally kills a young boy who is also in church. He and his mentor Ken are sent to Bruges, where they are to await further instructions, by their employer Harry. Ken finds the city charming and quaint, while Ray has nothing but contempt for it.
They chance upon a film shoot involving a dwarf actor, which amuses Ray. Ray is attracted to Chloë, a local drug dealer moonlighting as a production assistant. He takes her to a restaurant, where he gets into an argument with a Canadian couple and ends up knocking them unconscious. Chloë takes Ray to her apartment where they begin to make love, but her ex-boyfriend Eirik appears and threatens Ray with a handgun. Ray disarms him and fires the gun, which is loaded with blanks, in Eirik's face, blinding him in one eye. Chloë admits that she and Eirik rob tourists, but insists she had told Eirik that Ray was not a target. Ray and Ken spend a debauched night with the dwarf actor, Jimmy, who takes cocaine and rants about a coming war between blacks and whites.
Harry calls Ken and orders him to kill Ray, on the principle that killing a child—even accidentally—is unforgivable. With a handgun supplied by Harry's local contact Yuri, Ken tracks Ray to a park and reluctantly prepares to kill him. Ray, however, distraught at his killing of the boy, prepares to kill himself with Eirik's loaded gun. Seeing this, Ken stops Ray, informs him of Harry's order and tells him to leave Bruges to make a new start elsewhere. He gives Ray some money and puts him on a train to another city, while confiscating his gun to prevent a further suicide attempt. Ken reports back to Harry, who immediately sets out for Bruges, enraged at the disobedience. He picks up a gun at Yuri's, and Eirik, Yuri's son, learns of his intention.
On the train, Ray is identified by the Canadian couple he assaulted in the restaurant and is escorted by the police back to Bruges. Chloë bails him out and the two share a drink on the market square beneath Bruges's belfry. Harry arrives in Bruges and rushes through the streets towards Ray's hotel, but spots Ken sitting outside a cafe. As the two have a drink, Harry threatens to kill him there and then, but is persuaded to climb to the top of the carillon tower instead. Once at the top Ken argues that Ray deserves a chance at redemption. Harry boasts that if he himself had killed a child, he would have immediately taken his own life. He shoots Ken in the leg as a punishment for not killing Ray. Seeing Ray at the square, Eirik climbs the tower to inform Harry, who is helping Ken down the tower. Harry rushes down but Ken, bleeding heavily, drags himself back to the top of the tower and jumps into the square. Ray rushes to Ken's mangled body and learns of Harry's arrival. Just before he dies, Ken tells him to take his gun, but it has been broken in the fall.
Harry chases Ray to the hotel; Marie, the pregnant owner, refuses him entry, even when he draws his gun. Harry and Ray agree to continue the chase on the canal and Ray jumps onto a passing barge. Harry wounds Ray with a shot from a distance. Ray staggers onto the street where Jimmy's film is shooting. Harry catches up and repeatedly shoots Ray until he collapses. One of the bullets hits Jimmy (costumed as a schoolboy), blowing his head apart. Harry believes he has killed a child and, despite Ray straining to explain, kills himself on principle. Ray is lifted into an ambulance, with a distraught Chloë and the hotel owner Marie at his side. He reflects on the nature of hell, comparing it to the city of Bruges, and hopes that he survives.Colin Farrell as Ray
Brendan Gleeson as Ken Daley
Ralph Fiennes as Harry Waters
Clémence Poésy as Chloë Villette
Jordan Prentice as Jimmy
Thekla Reuten as Marie
Jérémie Renier as Eirik
Anna Madeley as Denise
Elizabeth Berrington as Natalie Waters
Eric Godon as Yuri
Željko Ivanek as a Canadian man
In Bruges: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a soundtrack to the film of the same name, released by Lakeshore Records and featuring the score of Carter Burwell as well as additional music found in the film. The soundtrack was released on 5 February 2008 in the United States and Canada.
All music composed by Carter Burwell, except where noted.
In Bruges was released in limited cinemas on 8 February 2008, and opened in 28 theatres in the United States, grossing $125,541 on its opening day and $459,575 on its opening weekend, ranking No. 25 with a per theatre average of $16,413. On its second weekend, it was released in 112 theatres and moved up to No. 22 and grossed $970,211, with a per theatre average of $8,663. By its third weekend it moved up even more to No. 21 and made $738,318 from 163 theatres it was released, with $4,530 per theatre average. It has a current worldwide total lifetime gross of $33,394,440
In Bruges received very positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 84%, based on 185 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The critical consensus reads: "Featuring witty dialogue and deft performances, In Bruges is an effective mix of dark comedy and crime thriller elements." Metacritic gives the film an average score of 67 out of 100, based on 34 critics, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, saying "This film debut by the theater writer and director Martin McDonagh is an endlessly surprising, very dark, human comedy, with a plot that cannot be foreseen but only relished." Tasha Robinson of The A.V. Club gave the film an "A−", praising the performances of the main cast: "Farrell, having successfully made the transition from overexposed-yet-underutilized action-thriller star to one-film-a-year artiste, gets a lot to work with, and he sells it all flawlessly, moving convincingly from offhanded, prickly asshole mode to nervous young lover to disintegrating martyr," and that "then again, all the leads are perfectly cast, and they help turn a light farce with thriller overtones into something deeper and sweeter." About the film itself, she added: "When it's funny, it's hilarious; when it's serious, it's powerful; and either way, it's an endless pleasant surprise." Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three and a half stars out of four and praised the two leads, stating that "Brendan Gleeson is brilliant as Ken … along with his partner in crime, Ray, played by Colin Farrell in probably his best performance." About the film, she added that it's "sharply written, superbly acted, funny and even occasionally touching." Damon Wise of Empire magazine gave the film four out of five stars, writing that "with In Bruges, the British gangster movie gets a Croydon facelift. It may not be new, but it's a wonderfully fresh take on a familiar genre: fucked-up, far-out and very, very funny."
John Anderson of the Washington Post gave the film a positive review, writing that "those who know McDonagh's work know a vein of darkness will run deeply through the comedy. It has seldom been darker. Or funnier. He has made a hit-man movie in which you don't know what will happen and can't wait to find out. Every movie should be so cliched." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave the film a positive review; he praised Farrell's performance, stating that "in the past few months, with Cassandra's Dream and now this, we've found out something about Farrell. He's not a matinee idol, and he's not a suave or heroic leading man. He's a terrific character actor, and he can go to low places that suave heroes can't risk, like anguish, self-hatred, embarrassment, utter confusion and buffoonery." About the film, he added that it's "witty and lively, with a soul to it, as well." Dana Stevens of Slate magazine also praised the performances of the two leads: "Farrell, who just played a remarkably similar tortured killer for hire in Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream, finds just the right tone for this twitchy, funny, emotionally volatile thug; for once, he seems to know exactly what movie he's in. So does Brendan Gleeson, the big, shambling, sad-eyed Irish actor known to American audiences mainly for his role in the last two Harry Potter movies." She continued about the film: "A jolly mess of a movie. Overplotted, choppy, and contrived, it nonetheless has a curious vitality that makes you wonder where McDonagh will go next." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, writing that "the acting is top-notch. Colin Farrell, who seems to be gravitating increasingly toward smaller films, effectively channels his manic energy. He and Brendan Gleeson display chemistry in the Odd Couple vein, occasionally giving rise to instances of humor. Ralph Fiennes plays one of the most twisted roles of his career."
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "C+", indicating a mixed review; she praised McDonagh's directing, stating that "he's a specialist in constructing satisfying, live-wire dramas of violence that crash up against despair, in upending his characters' miseries with moments of twisted humor, and in sustaining a writing voice that roars with a particularly Irish robustness of obscenity." She also added that "neither star is sloppy, but both are loose and mellow—a couple of pros who know they're the whole show." Ella Taylor of Village Voice also gave the film a mixed review, stating that "Bruges may be the movie's rather too-long-running joke, but Farrell's shaggy brow is easily the most entertaining thing in Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's first foray into the crime caper."
In Bruges was nominated for seven awards by the British Independent Film Awards, including the Douglas Hickox Award (Debut Director), Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film and Best Screenplay, the latter of which it won. It was also nominated for two Satellite Awards: for Best Actor (Brendan Gleeson) and Best Film.
In November 2008, Martin McDonagh won the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild (IPSG) award for Best Film Script for the film.
The film was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and both Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell were nominated for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, which Farrell won at the 66th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, broadcast on 11 January 2009. McDonagh won the Best Original Screenplay award at the 62nd British Academy Film Awards in February 2009.
The film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay award at the 81st Academy Awards in 2009, but lost to Milk. In the same year, it won the Best International Film award at the 6th Irish Film & Television Awards.
The film was released on DVD in region 1 on 24 June 2008; region 2 on 11 August 2008; and region 4 on 21 January 2009. It was also released on Blu-ray on 27 January 2009; and in region 1 on 13 July 2010.