Sunday, October 21, 2012

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Director: Martin McDonagh
Notable Cast: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton

I still stand firmly behind my stance that McDonagh's "In Bruges" is one of the best comedies I have ever seen, blending the long time play writer's quirky violent humor with introspective character work into a charming and often unnerving display to craft a magnificent film debut. In all honesty, I expected McDonagh to play a little safer with his second film effort and cater a bit more towards the quirk and less towards the introspective. From the trailers I repeatedly watched about "Seven Psychopaths" with its odd dog napping schemes and off kilter characters/cast I very much felt that he did.

I should have known better.

Marty (Farrell) has desperately been looking for inspiration and focus to finish his upcoming screenplay "Seven Psychopaths." Even his best friend Billy (Rockwell) wants to help even though he's been busy with his partner Hans (Walken) with their dog-napping business venture. When Billy accidentally steals a very special dog from a very psychopathic mobster (Harrelson), all three of these friends are going to have to make some decisions about their futures or they may not have any at all.

I say I should have known better because "Seven Psychopaths" is about as off the wall quirky with its narrative as its gets. Yes the synopsis I just wrote is the basics of what sets the film into motion (and what we saw in the trailers), but it is only one tiny facet of what really makes this film tick. And it ticks into some very unusual and often dividing territory for your average film goer.

Would you trust a man in a bear ski hat? Would you?
The film is almost completely self referencing of itself. It's about a man, Marty, who wants to write a screenplay called "Seven Psychopaths" and the hijinks that he and his friends end up in by trying to find inspiration for the script. Half of the lines are stated about the film itself by the characters for their characters and it even goes as far as predicting the entire ending before it happens...only so we could watch it unfold that way. At times the narration does become a bit jumbled as it leaps into little 'mini-movies' throughout as our characters develop 'psycho-killers' for Marty's script which may or may not be based on other characters in the film. If this sounds a bit confusing, its because I'm not near as clever as McDonagh at letting it all play out and occasionally he (as director and writer) can't keep up either. Although I appreciate the meta aspects of the film, at times it is overwhelming with how it plays out in it's own predictions.

As for the actual on screen work and not conceptional ideas, "Seven Psychopaths" is damn near perfect. The casting is only top notch with Rockwell, Harrelson, and Walken giving some career defining performances that really embrace each of their abilities and quirks as actors. Only Farrell seems a bit underused as his character - intentionally so - is used as a narrator and subdued watcher outside of these ridiculous characters and their collision courses with one another. And McDonagh certainly works the leaping meta angel to its fullest visual advantage taking careful time to really build this "movie within a movie" idea to new lengths. The mini-psycho-films are almost as good as the film they reside in with their own intriguing (and sometimes changing) characters who violently battle through their issues in an almost Tarantino style way. The one thing that "Seven Pyschopaths" does quite well is the flow of the film as it gracefully moves through its many different layers.

I learned that an innate trait of writers is alcoholism. I better get on that. 
I can't say that it is as good as "In Bruges" is, but "Seven Psychopaths" is still an impressive second outing for McDonagh with its very strong rapid fire dialogue and amazingly offensive characters. It stumbles a bit with its own meta concept despite strong pacing and character connection to help overcome many of its flaws, but I can say that I had a blast watching it and how it all worked out. It is NOT a film for everyone as it is, once again, quite offensive and violent for a comedy, but for those with the stomach it is a treat like none other.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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