Colin Farrell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ray in In Bruges.
Colin Farrell although before this film had a string of leading men parts many times rather dull leading performances, but here he showed a very different side to his ability as a performer. Farrell plays Ray the younger of the two hit men and the one who messed up the hit, that was in fact his very first kill as a professional assassin. He also of the two is far less encouraged by his trip to Bruges which he considers to be quite a crummy place to say the least. Even though he is quite clear and quite concise about his distaste for Bruges he does face the past event that has brought both of the men to the city.
The different side of himself that Farrell shows here actually almost seems like a completely different actor than some of his performances like Hart's War for example. Here Farrell is almost an endless ball of energy as Ray, which works perfectly for the part. He always seems like he wants to move a little bit more than he is allowed, or if he is moving as much as he can he certainly becomes rather flamboyant. This all works for Ray who is basically pent up inside over his detest for where he is, as well as his pain that is involved with his rather difficult situation caused by his very poorly handled hit.
Farrell has quite a difficult task here in finding the right tone for his character of Ray, as it is both a very comedic performance, but as well a very dramatic one as well considering his character of Ray is almost suicidal and not in a comedic way either. Amazingly Farrell pulls it off actually in what is really a fearless performance that constantly treads through the lines of great humor and heavy drama in just about equal measure. Farrell due to his lack of hesitation in his performance effectively manages to meet the challenges of this task. He never stays too long with any side of Ray and naturally progresses from the funny to the sad.
In his more comedic scenes Farrell certainly goes out on a limb with his very wild performance as Ray who is constantly trying to do much of anything to get a thrill out of the seemingly simple place known as Bruges. Every one of his despondent reactions to being in such a place he finds no interest in whatsoever, or his unpredictable moments of humor when he reacts a little more extremely to certain individuals is always quite enjoyably handled by Farrell. With all of the almost insane moments in his performance it is incredible that he never loses his timing for a single moment with his performance.
Farrell though is equally effective in his more dramatic moments as he shows just how horribly torn apart inside Ray is over his first job. He did in fact kill the man he was paid to kill but accidentally he also shot and killed a young child. Farrell portrayal of Ray's guilt is heart wrenching as there are moments where he shows the weight of this horrendous act is ripping his soul apart. Interestingly what works so well about Farrell performance is how he combines these terrible very emotional moments, with his crazy but very funny antics in the other scene. Farrell though actually shows that his more entertaining moments are really the way Ray is dealing with his pain.
Farrell shows with his performance that it is that Ray is trying his very best to try to forget his past, and even attempts to even joke about what he has done. Farrell though shows that in a way this works to some degree in that he can go without breaking down, but the image of the boy's death never truly leaves his mind. This is best shown when he does tell the joke about his exploits and even when he has a smile on his face Farrell conveys the deep regret that Ray cannot shake no matter how hard he tries. The transitions are seamless as well as very powerful, there never is a disconnect and the comedy and the drama are all part of Ray's journey in the film.
I should of course mention what aids greatly in making this performance work as well as it does is Farrell considerable chemistry with Brendan Gleeson as Ray's fellow older hit man Ken. The two have just a terrific dynamic between each other that is both hilarious and moving. Farrell as Ray acts as the far less level headed side who is more emotional, faster to quick judgments and foolish actions. Everything Farrell does is perfectly foiled by Gleeson's performance which I will get to soon. They are simply great fun together, but as well both express the more philosophical side of the film equally well. Together that are a great very memorable duo that succeed in making the film work as well as it does. Alone though I should still say that Farrell gives a terrific performance which never fails to meet the challenges of his complex character.