Release: Friday, October 12, 2012 (limited)
All I really have to say is that was an awful lot of bloodshed over a Shih Tzu……..then again, that’s just the perfect addition to a film parodying a genre of films that seems to make fun of violence itself. Seven Psychopaths will not apologize for the violence, either. And thank goodness, because it shouldn’t.
Despite it being the second full-length feature film from Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (his first being 2008’s In Bruges), Psychopaths plays out as comfortably and entertainingly as something churned out by a director with about 10 or 20 projects already under his or her belt. And, despite the brutality throughout, there’s an incredible charm to the direction; a sense of brazen authority in the way it mixes graphic violence with silly parody in the strangest of times.
Colin Farrell is but one of many oddball characters (….okay, psychopaths, if you wanna get technical) who is up to the task of demonstrating just how outrageous the crime dramedy film has become these days. He plays Marty, a drunk/Hollywood screenwriter who’s been bashing his head against the wall under the stress of missed deadlines and writer’s block. He’s got an idea of what he’s going to do but so far only the title Seven Psychopaths, and one character sketch (Psychopath #1) have come to him. Luckily, his loudmouthed friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) has a few ideas and would like nothing more but to be included in Marty’s writing and idea-generation process.
But of course with Billy being Billy — which is speaking more to Sam Rockwell having one heck of a field day in this film — he simply can’t sustain his sense of purpose just by playing side-seat driver in Marty’s vehicle here. He is an actor of some description, but nothing doing on that front either. Naturally, he turns to dognapping and enlists the help of his good friend Hans (Christopher Walken) to return these poor dogs for cash. This is a pretty legitimate way of earning money for awhile; that is, until Billy takes a little Shih Tzu that just so happens to belong to one of the most ruthless criminals in the Los Angeles area — a balding bully named Charlie (Woody Harrelson).
Now, describing this movie and where it goes with its various plots is a little like describing to someone your own family tree: it’s complicated, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see that person’s eyes start to glaze over a few minutes in. In fact the plot structure is remarkably like a family-tree in its design. The main thread in Psychopaths is this story being written about seven guys with varying degrees of rage and varying degrees of justification to back up their actions. But whereas Farrell’s character is trying to get his story done, we in the audience are trying to figure out where everyone ELSE is coming from, and what they have to do with him. Most are linked to him in some inexplicable or violent manner….others begin to factor in as Marty is explaining his movie and who the psychopaths are going to be. I was a particular fan of one creation: the Vietnamese veteran guy who dresses like a priest, uses a hooker for attention and attempts to exact revenge on Americans for what was done to his people. It’s completely over the top, but at the same time, so completely necessary!
There is but one symptom of being a fan of these psychopaths: a little bit of a headache, and a touch of confusion. This is only because a good majority of the film is spent going back and forth between the situation facing Marty, Billy and Hans involving the ruthless Charlie who’s after his dog, and the scenes Marty is setting up for his movie. Ostensibly, this film is a film about a film within a film. Confused yet? No? Cool; sitting through this highly entertaining film will not be an issue for you. If there is a weak link in the chain, it is the snappy editing that brings us to and from these psychopathic introductions Marty has in his mind — it may take a while for people to catch on that this is what’s really going on.
The rest of the aspects to the film — most notably the charismatic acting style — succeed on so many levels that these moments of confusion remain brief and are hardly a threat to disrupting the film’s balance, one’s ability to enjoy themselves while watching one of the silliest violent movies ever, or even make much of a threat to derailing the storyline much. Despite the jump back-and-forths between real world and Marty’s screenplay, the film remains remarkably focused with as many subplots as it has going on. Tom Waits, as Zachariah in one such subplot, adds to the delightful entourage of badassery. Walken nails his role (as though there was any doubt he wouldn’t…) and he absolutely shines in the moments he needs to. The conclusion of the film is given such life thanks to Christopher Walken being Christopher Walken. The scene is infused with a sensitivity and passion visited upon in some scenes before, but never embellished upon until this moment; it becomes vital for differentiating Seven Psychopaths from being a cold-blooded killing machine.
McDonagh’s second outing as writer-director stylistically may not explore too much new territory but that does not mean the ground we’re covering again is not worth the revisit. His films are quite unique in the strangeness of the experience, which also happens to be a trademark stamp of Tarantino’s work. Still, McDonagh’s effort feels different, if not more lighthearted, and has certainly earned its place in the discussion of great cinema.
Recommendation: Seven Psychopaths is a must-see movie. Simply put. For the laughs, the violence, the constant bickering, and for the cute little Shih Tzu…this is a very unique experience and I fully recommend it to everyone and anyone.
Running Time: 109 mins.
Quoted: “Art and peace and all that shit can wait.”
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