By the time In Bruges hit theaters, the accumulation of recent British gangster movies left some viewers skeptical whether there'd be anything new here -- especially with Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla looming on the horizon as yet another dose of the familiar. As it turns out, setting the action in Belgium is just this film's first important departure from the status quo. Guided by the sensibilities of an accomplished Irish playwright, In Bruges is a deep and unexpected breath of fresh air. This is to say nothing of how Martin McDonagh's film enabled the surprise reemergence of Colin Farrell. In Bruges provided the actor his first Golden Globe nomination and win for the role of Ray, a small-time wisecracking hood whose botched hit follows him to the medieval landscape of Bruges, where he and a partner (Brendan Gleeson) await further instruction. Their relationship is peculiar to the criminal world, where surface loyalty and a wicked camaraderie are offset by the tense fragility of changing circumstances and the criminal code. The two actors have great oil-and-water chemistry and some hilarious exchanges, but the core of their relationship is the work-related emotional burdens they share, sensitively rendered by McDonagh. Ralph Fiennes' insertion into this dynamic only increases the complexity and the fun. McDonagh's Oscar-nominated screenplay consistently has it both ways, balancing the silly and the serious, and managing its every clever thread with equal aplomb. The city of Bruges, with its singular architectural scheme, sets in motion many of the plot's wonderful oddities, unexpected turns, and quirky characters. But its role is proportionate to McDonagh's other fine touches, far more than gimmick, far more than pretty scenery intended to distract the viewer. As it deconstructs the criminal mind and examines why people do what they do, In Bruges is both funny and poignant.