Review: SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Ever since watching the movie Pulp Fiction for the first time in the 90s, I have had a profound fondness for gritty, dark and irreverent comedies.  Some people may think shocking, graphic violence and comedy go together like oil and water, but I happen to relish it, especially when expertly written by a mad genius like Quentin Tarantino.  I would go on to watch and enjoy Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Ritchie’s presentation is a bit more in the hyperactive vein of Looney Tunes, but still had a certain gritty and nasty quality.  In 2008 writer/director Martin McDonagh came up with In Bruges, a similarly styled movie of criminals and their violent work, but just as the movies mentioned above, told with a darkly humorous tone.  McDonagh returns with yet another pulpy and even more insane film whose story revolves around a kidnapped Shih Tzu dog.

In Seven Psychopaths, an Irish screenwriter named Marty (Colin Farrell) has been struggling to develop a script with the same title.  He has scant ideas on how to begin.  Of course his good buddy Billy (Sam Rockwell) is more than happy to offer his insane story suggestions.  Billy and his business partner Hans (Christopher Walken) run illegal dog-napping scams to make money.  Billy will kidnap a dog from an easy mark.  The two men wait for the owner to offer a reward for the pet’s return and Hans returns the animal to its owner and collects the reward.  When Billy takes a Shih Tzu from a violent criminal psychopath named Charlie (Woody Harrelson), this sets off a violent, bloody and often hilarious chain of events which not only affects Billy and Hans, but also Marty who just wants to finish his script.

Martin McDonagh creates an insanely imaginative and hilarious mix of story lines and incredible characters with Seven Psychopaths.  He seems to bounce from comedy to drama, levity to gravity with the greatest of ease which would seem to be a difficult thing to accomplish.  McDonagh doesn’t shy away from bloody, gory and shocking violence, but somehow manages to spin it all comically.  McDonagh also shows great talent and proficiency when it comes to writing fresh, witty and intelligent dialogue. For those who enjoy Tarantino’s brand of humor, story telling and violence, this film should not be missed.  The only problem I have with the film is that because McDonagh goes all over the place with his intertwining stories and characters, a couple of stories seem out of left field and don’t quite neatly fit in the entire scheme of things.  Otherwise, the rest fit together beautifully like pieces of a puzzle.  Once the picture is complete, it is quite awesome, except for those odd pieces that don’t seem to fit quite right.

The entire cast offer stellar performances.  Colin Farrell, whose writer character struggles with alcoholism is the “straight man” so to speak, as he is the most harmless of the group.  He works well reacting in shock and awe to the others who obviously are off their kilters.  Sam Rockwell is wonderful as Billy, an often clueless buffoon who has a penchant for stirring up much more trouble than necessary, to put it mildly.  Rockwell has superb comic timing and has some of the most hilarious scenes, especially when sharing his ridiculous movie ideas with Marty.  Christopher Walken is a joy to behold on the screen as Hans, a sweet ne’er do well of a criminal who doesn’t really seem to know how to do anything else to make money except help Billy with his dog stealing scheme.  As the story develops, the audience learns that there is much more to Hans than meets the eye. Walken uses his manner of speaking to great comic effect to deliver his side-splitting lines.  The film also features Harrelson as a volatile criminal whose only weakness seems to be his little dog for which he will kill until he gets her back.  Other cast members include Tom Waits, Kevin Corrigan, Abbie Cornish, and Zeljko Ivanek, all in great roles.

So as with films by Tarantino and Ritchie, this movie certain will not appeal to every taste, particularly of the more reserved and conservative variety.  For those who don’t mind watching jaw dropping, shocking violence in one scene, but are laughing about it later because of a hilarious off color remark by a character, then this is the movie to see.  I highly recommend it as a full priced ticket, as it simply is that good.  McDonagh is an amazing writer and director and I hope to see him make many more films like the two he has done so far.

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