What do you get when you mix seven psychopaths, a supporting role by an expressionless Shih Tzu and over-the-top Tarantino-esque violence? You get a sharply penned script with killer dialogue and grade-A talent hysterically meshed together. But more importantly, you get Christopher Walken.
Thanks to the Chive…I was able to see Seven Psychopaths two weeks before its theatrical release. Here’s what I thought:
The Irish writer-director of 2008’s In Bruges, Martin McDonagh, takes a step in Hollywood’s direction as playwright turned filmmaker with 2012’s Seven Psychopaths. Throwing Hollywood film making in our face, this film is first a comedy and secondly a witty commentary on the idea of violence as entertainment in cinema. He’s right on target. Encroaching on Tarantino’s iconic style of violence, McDonagh proves that not only can do it too, and make it look good, but addresses what all his characters are thinking…does violence constitute a good script? Marty doesn’t think so.
Marty (Colin Farrell) is an Irish alcoholic struggling in Los Angeles to pen his next screenplay, Seven Psychopaths, but hits a dry spell for inspiration. Marty wants his plot to be unique and edgy, but not too violent and not too dull. He throws in the idea of a Buddhist psychopath to join the seven, but questions how the other six will pan out. Marty’s best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) assists Marty in piecing together his characters, with less pacifism and a more violent “shoot-em-up” twist…the ingredient for box-office success. Violence sells, right?
But there’s a catch. Billy’s got a dognapping gig on the side…stealing dogs from visibly wealthy owners, housing them in a makeshift animal shelter and resurfacing with the dog days later after the desperate owner posts flyers with generous rewards$$ for the safe return of their beloved pooch. Billy’s partner in this scheme is Hans (Christopher Walken). Hans, a surprisingly touching character in the film, developed the risky business to raise money for his wife, hospitalized with cancer. It’s a low profile gig with seemingly no violence, until Billy steals the wrong dog. [See below]
Meet Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson). A legitimate psychopath/criminal with an extremely silly adoration for his pint-sized Shih Tzu, Bonny, whose dog collar reads something like “If you don’t return my dog, I’ll kill you.” Marty finds himself unintentionally intertwined in a complete disaster with Billy and Hans when they realize they’ve stolen a psychopath’s dog. And to top it all off, Billy places an ad in the paper looking for “psychopaths” who are willing to tell their tale for Marty’s screenplay, in hopes of further sparking more inspiration.
What makes this entire plot hilarious and well-scripted, is that the characters in the movie “re-write” the script as it’s happening…virtually manipulating how they want their story to pan out. Hence, the best shootout ever. Or is it?
Both verbally and visually amusing, this film enters the rankings of my top-tier films of the years, falling with Beasts of the Southern Wild and Killer Joe. It doesn’t follow a specific format, and doesn’t cater to cinematic expectations. And for that reason, it’s great. It’s not all just silly and laughs, although there’s plenty of that, there is a slight emotional edge of melancholy depicted by Christopher Walken’s character. It all brews together into a cinematic explosion of creativity that 2012 desperately needed, and it will be one of the few films this year that you’ll have to watch more than once.
“The film as violent as it is and irreverent as it is and profane as it is…it’s a really sweet film. At it’s core…like In Bruges was. It’s about love and friendship. It’s about putting all ghosts to rest and moving on. And it’s about peace. And violence against violence. That’s the biggest trick of it. It’s really about a cry against violence.” — Colin Farrell with Tribute for TIFF2012