Thursday, October 18, 2012


One movie I sometimes hear mentioned is 2008's In Bruges, the black comedy from director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh. The film, which has quickly become a cult classic, combined an interesting premise with a violent story, earning star Colin Farrell a Golden Globe for his performance and In Bruges itself a Golden Globe nomination for best screenplay. It was McDonagh's first feature film, and set him up as a director to watch in the future.

The future is here now, and his sophomore effort Seven Psychopaths seems to have it all; a high-caliber cast, an overdose of inappropriate humor and more than enough violence to keep you on your toes. I mean, come on; how can you not get excited about a film called "Seven Psychopaths"? In a weekend of four major interesting releases (the others being Argo, Sinister and Here Comes the Boom), McDonagh's was the most original and intelligent option. That's what Todd and I agreed, and what several of our friends and cohorts affirmed was the title to see.

They won't take any Shih Tzu
Marty (Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter depressed over his current state of writer's block. He's got a title in mind - Seven Psychopaths - but is having a hard time coming up with ides for the seven. He is assisted by his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), an out of work actor and part-time dog-napper who alongside the non-violent Hans (Christopher Walken) steal dogs from their owners and then return them for the reward money. The business is going well until Billy steals the Shih Tzu (the breed was picked I'm sure so the characters could purposely err in pronunciation) of violent crime lord Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson). Marty gets caught up in the mess, and soon the three men are on the lam, with Marty hoping he can finish writing his movie before he becomes the victim of one of his Psychopaths.

This dog needs more cowbell!
There's one guarantee I will make about this movie; you will NEVER be able to predict what will happen next. From the intense violence of the very first scene, Seven Psychopaths follows its own individual path. Unlike every title out there. it doesn't follow the same trodden paths to the same boring conclusions, and refuses to confine itself to any particular genre. At some moments it's light-hearted comedy, at others Quentin Tarantino's wet dream. The characters, especially the eponymous Psychopaths (who are gradually introduced throughout), are so incredibly unpredictable that you will never see the next action coming, and the resulting surprise makes Seven Psychopaths unlike anything you have seen to this point.

"Fire Danger" is right!
The Psychopaths themselves are a varied bunch, whether they originate from real life or Marty's imagination. They range from simply bizarre (the Quaker Psychopath, for instance) to the intensely violent Charlie Costello. Each has their own quirks and back-story, and even if they appear only for a few minutes they make lasting impressions on the film. My personal favorite was the masked Jack O'Diamonds, whose gimmick was killing mid-to-high-ranking members of organized crime syndicates and leaves playing cards on their bodies. You never knew when he was going to show up, and you found yourself relishing every moment he did. But none of the psychos is unforgettable, and you'll find yourself following the bread trail as each is reluctantly brought to light and developed.

Move over, Uggie.
Surprisingly central to the story was the the interplay between Marty, Billy and Hans as they work on Marty's script. It's quite the mix of methodologies as each wishes to make their mark on the budding screenplay. Marty doesn't want to go down the cliched, violent road that you would expect from a film called Seven Psychopaths, while Billy practically demands the big shoot-out to take place at the end. Hans meanwhile, being a Buddhist by nature, wants a more peaceful conclusion to things. What's funny is that they're fighting about the ending of the movie they end up being in, and I thought it made for an interesting mix of Tarantino and Spike Jonze's 2002 gem Adaptation. The final act is especially well-woven, and makes for a fine and appropriate conclusion to a wickedly funny and insane narrative.

Abbie Cornish's five minutes are about up...
The film also takes advantage of an excellent, underrated cast that delivers both laughs and heart in a script that doesn't broker any weak performances. Farrell doesn't always get the best scripts, but he always puts everything he has on the table. Though playing an alcoholic Irishman wouldn't seem like much of a stretch, it's hilarious to see him get berated (even by the Psychopaths) for his excessive drinking. He always puts everything on the table in his performances, even when he isn't given the best scripts, and so on this screen his performance is genius. Rockwell, another supremely-talented actor, balances that dynamic by playing up Billy's zany antics and manic tendencies. What's great about Billy is his ability to do the absolute wrong things for the right reasons, and I can't imagine anyone besides Rockwell pulling it off.  It would have been interesting to see what Mickey Rourke could have done with the role, but I'm glad Harrelson eventually got to play of Charlie Costello. Continually proving that he has broadened as an actor since his Cheers days, Woody Harrelson has the right look and is as perfectly cast as one can get. So surprisingly is musician Tom Waits as a bunny-carrying Psychopath in a minor role. The ladies are sadly underutilized; with high-profile castings of Quantum of Solace's Olga Kurylenko and Sucker Punch's Abbie Cornish, and their appearances in the trailers, I was expecting more. Marty and crew do somewhat make up for it by joking about it later, but the only thing not making it a deal breaker is that this movie is really about the guys anyway.

"Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio."
And the guy of the hour is most definitely Christopher Walken. Despite how much I loved the rest of this flick, there's no way I'd have enjoyed it half as much if not for his mere presence. There have been plenty of impersonators over the years, but the best continues to be Walken himself, who gladly uses his offbeat speech rhythm and deadpan facade to great effect. Whatever he's talking about automatically becomes comic gold, and when the subjects turn to the completely insane topics the film addresses, he reaches a whole other level. You could easily see this movie for him alone and walk away satisfied. Like John Malkovich, he is one of Hollywood's most unique actors, and it almost always worth watching.

"But where has all the RUM gone??"
But Seven Psychopaths is no mere one-man show. It's one of the best times you'll spend at the theater this year, and appropriately steps in at #7 for 2012. It will probably be little remembered by audiences who don't want a new experience when they visit the theater, but for anyone wanting something NEW and FRESH with their cinema experience, this one becomes a must-see. Get to it before Paranormal Activity 4 knocks it from theaters for good.

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