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Sep 29, 2013

Review: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

           Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Zeljko Ivanek, Harry Dean Stanton, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Linda Bright Clay, Long Nguyen, Amanda Mason Warren, James Hebert, Christine Marzano, Kevin Corrigan, Helena Mattsson


                   Martin McDonagh


                 This British comedy film from the director of 2008's "In Bruges" won the best film award at Toronto International Film Festival last year in the Midnight Madness section. I am a bit familiar with McDonagh's style having seen a glimpse of his previous movie but still haven't got a chance to sit down and finish it up once and for all. But what I got to see and experience in this movie is beyond what I was expecting. Seven Psychopaths is one of the wildest comedies I have seen in a long time. A movie with its meta plotting, deconstructs itself as it moves on. McDonagh cleverly takes the notion of storytelling and film writing, inserts his own unique spin at both of them and talks about violence in movies while using it to the fullest himself. It is something on the line of Coens' "Barton Fink" and Jonze's "Adaptation." with style that reminds one of Quentin Tarantino with the typical Irish humor of McDonagh. Just to be clear, the movie itself is very unique and inventive. Those are the obvious comparisons because they are movies about writing, this is a pure McDonagh movie. I always wonder how suffering from a writer's block actually helps the writers come up with such genius ways of taking that very thing that is holding them back and use to the fullest. Seven Psychopaths is about Marty Faranan (Farrell) who is a struggling writer, hoping to finish up his screenplay which is titled 'Seven Psychopaths'. His best friend, Billy Bickle (Rockwell), is an unemployed actor with a unique way of making money for himself. He kidnaps the dogs and then collects the cash rewards that the owners are willing to pay for the safe return of their beloved pets. Hans Kieslowski (Walken), is a religious man with a wife, Myra, who suffers from cancer. Hans helps Billy with the kidnappings. While juggling the ideas to include in his script, Marty gets some help from Billy who suggests using "Jack of Diamonds" killer in the script who has been in news lately for the killings. Marty himself includes story of another psychopath, the "Quaker" who stalks the killer of his daughter for years which ends up badly for both of them. When Billy and Hans steal a Shih Tzu called Bonny, little do they know that this particular pet belongs to Charlie Costello (Harrelson) who is a violent gangster.

                 I like the idea of McDonagh using his own imagined script for this movie into his movie when the character of Marty himself is writing a screenplay just like McDonagh and struggling to include interesting 'psychopaths'. This whole thing of pointing guns at your own self is not always successful because when it goes too meta, it becomes a mess. It is funny how we see the characters making up violent killers for them to include in the script. An obvious commentary at the nature and use of violence in Hollywood movies. I mean sometimes you can hint in such movies how forcibly some of the plot elements involving gangsters and bloody shootouts are just thrown here and there to fill up the screen. In this movie, the friends suggests some enigmatic, larger than life sort of killers for the script. Some of them are actually real life ones that have been in the news lately (a revelation I wont entirely spoil that has something to do with Billy) and then there are those who are these legends, with some sort of legacy attached to them. What is even more funnier but shows how much Marty is willing to finish up his screenplay is when he actually posts an ad in the newspaper asking all the psychopaths to come and share their crazy/funny stories with him so that he can include it in his script. Little does he knows that he himself will be caught up in the middle of one real gangsters rivalry thanks to his friends. His friends, who were just trying to help that is but ends up helping him in a much realistic way. McDonagh's humor in this movie is very dense and it will require a few viewings to truly enjoy the experience. But his self-reflexive humor evidently moves along keeping the viewers conscious of what he wants to do with the movie and by the movie. That state not only keeps you interested on a visceral level but entertains basically for what this movie actually is. Jokes after jokes that may not gel-in with you all the time is because McDonagh is firing his bullets in so many various directions. You have to have a clear mind on whichever plane you want yourself with this movie to be able to enjoy it without being left out of the insane fun. It takes a while for this movie to start off but once it finds the footings, it never looks back.

                 Colin Farrell as Marty gives on of his better performances in the movie. The way he talks and moves his eyebrows at every instance is just good. You can sense the great chemistry on display here between him and the filmmaker having worked earlier and probably understanding each other's style clearly and what they want from one another. Farrell not only in an obvious way, since he is playing sort of an alter-ego of McDonagh, uses his own alternate persona to make his character standout in terms of his odyssey which is to make a damn good movie. There is no usual Farrell attitude on display here, he plays Marty in a subdued way. Expressive in other ways, channeling his inner frustration in a not so obvious manner. Then there is Sam Rockwell who always delivers good enough performances in the movies he is of some importance. He plays a complete psycho-insane person, just plain crazy. What Billy ends up doing in the movie for his friend is a witty point that McDonagh makes about these psychopaths who takes out their guns for a reason, well most of the time humane even if they ends up doing more damage to the humanity than they would help their loved ones. Not justifying any of those attributes or insanity but using its reasons for more than one thing in his movie. Rockwell is just insane here to a point that he comes off as rather stupid. He seems aware of his madness at some points and devoid of an understanding in others, both him and his character that is. McDonagh dances him around madly. But the real hero here is none other than Christopher Walken, the dead pan genius whose inclusion in this movie couldn't have been this great if it wasn't for his own persona. One of his better performances too in the most dead pan way imaginable. He has some of the best and most likable moments in the movie, the highlight among the cast for sure. There is Woody Harrelson too whom we always know as an actor who can transform quite easily from playing something serious to playing something funny. He has to do both of those in this movie. An unpredictable gangster whose lovely pet is his only source of humanity he shows at something that isn't actually human. His hatred for people around him can only be made worse by endangering that love of his. There are some very good cameos by other actors as well.

                 Written very well, directed quite nicely, acted all the more good, Seven Psychopaths offers so much through its unique approach of storytelling and commentary on itself or the very things it is trying to show. It is a gangster movie with the level of violence that is well, too much. But affective in a way because this is all done for a purpose that McDonagh quite makes clear. Still you wont believe what this movie does portraying the out-of-their-mind psycho killers. The stories within stories of them takes you away from the movie only to bring right back. It is a buddy comedy with great sort of chemistry between the three characters who help each other out in many ways. The scenes in the desert are something you wont forget for their level of absurdity. Great use of McDonagh's clever and plainly hilarious observations about everything, from Hollywood to screen-writing and from violence to the very genres it is tackling. It never truly reaches the level of brilliance it may hope for or aspire to, within the limits of its own universe but it is still a heck of an entertaining and always amazing ride. The very nature and structure of this movie and the humor is what makes Seven Psychopaths a better movie than most.

Grade: B+