October 14, 2012 at 10:55 am #71857
Saw this yesterday.
A bit uneven, the end is a let-down
but a corker of a script!! B+October 14, 2012 at 11:03 am #71859
Review: ‘Seven Psychopaths’ can’t handle its own crazy
‘Seven Psychopaths,’ with Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, is a letdown after writer-director Martin McDonagh’s ‘In Bruges.’
By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
literally and metaphorically, “Seven Psychopaths” is a shaggy dog story.
Not only is an actual shaggy dog, a tiny Shih Tzu, the cynosure of all eyes here, but the film’s rambling narrative meanders into all kinds of haphazard story lines that are simultaneously audacious, anarchic and random. If the name of writer-director Martin McDonagh is familiar, you sort of know what to expect.
McDonagh, a celebrated Irish playwright (“The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”) who was Oscar-nominated for his screenplay for 2008’s “In Bruges” (and won one for a short film), has set his latest film in Los Angeles, and its elements are every bit as blackhearted and wacky as the Bruges events were.
But unlike “In Bruges,” the outlandish parts of “Seven Psychopaths,” though often bleakly entertaining in their own right, remain a collection of weird riffs that not even engaging acting by Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken and Tom Waits can bring together.
Also, given that this is McDonagh working somewhat in the vein of Quentin Tarantino, “Seven Psychopaths” traffics in a good deal of bloody violence, not to mention his usual gleefully profane and politically incorrect dialogue.
You could argue — and people will — that the scenes of a head being graphically blown completely off and multiple individuals getting burned to death are all meant in jolly good fun, but they do tend to wear a body down nevertheless.
There is, in fact, so much violence in this film that it’s surprisingly easy to lose track of which characters are psychopaths and which are not, even though the miscreants are identified by an on-screen number when they first appear. This is not a problem that people putting Jane Austen on screen have ever had to face.
Whatever else you say about McDonagh, you know immediately it is one of his films you’re in. The first line of dialogue heard, right after Hank Williams sings his chilling “Angel of Death” over the opening credits, is one man asking another, “Was it Dillinger who got shot in the eyeball?”
It’s not long before the film’s first genuine psychopath appears, though his identity is unknown due to his proclivity for wearing a red ski mask when he blows people away. The killer also leaves the jack of diamonds next to his victims as a calling card of sorts.
Met next is Marty, played by McDonagh’s “In Bruges” star Colin Farrell. An Irish screenwriter (one of the film’s several self-referential touches) who likes to drink more than he likes to write, Marty is not a psychopath but someone who likes to write about them.
In fact, he’s come up with the “Seven Psychopaths” title for his next work, but his drinking has gotten in the way of his writing anything, which causes his girlfriend (an underutilized Abbie Cornish) no little despair.
Eager to help Marty with the script is his best friend, Billy (Rockwell), an out-of-work actor who has in the interim partnered with Hans (Christopher Walken) in what he calls the dog-borrowing business but is actually the dog-kidnapping-for-ransom business.
While Hans is preoccupied with his wife’s possible breast cancer, Billy kidnaps a dog that should never have been taken. That would be Bonny, an adorable Shih Tzu that belongs to Charlie Costello (Harrelson), an unmistakable psychopath who loves his dog beyond reason and won’t hesitate to kill anyone involved in his disappearance.
Deranged as this plot clearly is, it is also noticeably lacking in psychopaths, and the need to work in more leads the film down some odd trails. We see a story about a vengeance-seeking Quaker (the venerable Harry Dean Stanton) that Marty has heard somewhere, as well as an elaborate tale spun by a random psychopath named Zachariah (Waits) attracted by an ad in the LA Weekly (don’t ask).
In between the mayhem, the characters get to make the kinds of bravura McDonagh speeches that actors love, like one that Billy gives passionately refuting the logic of Gandhi’s notion that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
If this sounds confusing, it’s not the half of things. Like screenwriting Marty, who wants to pen a violent psychopath tale that is also life-affirming, this film wants to deliver genre satisfactions while simultaneously subverting them. It’s a difficult maneuver, and “Seven Psychopaths” doesn’t quite pull it off.October 14, 2012 at 11:12 am #71860
BY ROGER EBERT / October 10, 2012
Well, they have the title right. I don’t know how these people found one another, but they certainly belong on the same list. They all have roles in a screenplay titled “Seven Psychopaths,” which is under development by a writer named Marty Faranan, played by Colin Farrell. In Hollywood, “under development” means “all I have is the title.”
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges“), this is a delightfully goofy, self-aware movie that knows it is a movie. You’ve heard of a movie within a movie? I think this is a movie without a movie. Some of it happens to Marty, some of it happens in Marty’s imagination, and some of it seems to happen in one category and then invades another.
Consider an opening sequence with Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Pitt, who, on the basis of their conversation, are professional hit men. Or perhaps not very professional, because although they are in a wide-open space, they allow a man in a mask to walk right up and shoot them in the head.
Does this really happen? Figure it out for yourself. Marty’s best friend is Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), and if his last name is the same as the hero in Marty Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” I leave that for you to puzzle out. Eager to help Marty escape from writer’s block, Billy suggests a classified ad asking psychopaths to volunteer for interviews. Tom Waits knocks on the door and introduces himself as a serial killer who specializes in killing other serial killers. I forgot to mention that Los Angeles currently has an active serial killer named the Jack of Diamonds killer, who wipes out mobsters.
Billy is in business with a man named Hans (Christopher Walken). They’re dognappers who nab the beloved pets of well-off citizens, and pick the wrong victim when they snatch Bonny, the only creature on Earth who inspires the slightest affection from the cold-blooded gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson). Bonny is a Shih Tzu, giving the film countless opportunities to employ the words “Shih Tzu,” in which the “t” is sounded.
Intermixed with this story line, such as it is, are scenes for Marty’s screenplay involving Harry Dean Stanton as a cold-faced, avenging Quaker, which play ever so much like first drafts for earlier versions of this script, not that Harry Dean Stanton isn’t always enjoyable.
The film’s climax takes place in the archetypal desert hills of a B-Western, where Marty, Billy and Hans find themselves hiding out from the relentless Charlie with the Shih Tzu. The logic of this action, which circles around the question of who can be trusted by whom, and for whose reasons, is sort of an elaboration of the elegant geometry in the Mexican Standoff in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
Walken sometimes leans toward self-parody, but here his performance has a delicate, contained strangeness. All of the actors are good, and Farrell wisely allows the showier performances to circle around him. Like any screenwriter — like Tarantino, for example, who is possibly McDonagh’s inspiration here — he brings these people into being and stands back in amazement.October 14, 2012 at 11:35 am #71861
His Ink Has Dried Up, but Look at All the Blood
‘Seven Psychopaths,’ Written by Martin McDonagh
By MANOHLA DARGIS
Published: October 11, 2012
In his sporadically funny, blood-splattered comedy “Seven Psychopaths,” the playwright turned movie director Martin McDonagh looks to turn writer’s block into grim comedy. Colin Farrell, who’s even better looking than the pretty Mr. McDonagh, author of plays like “The Pillowman” and director of the film “In Bruges,” plays Marty Faranan, a struggling Irish writer who lives in Los Angeles, where he fights with his girlfriend, Kaya (Abbie Cornish); hangs with his best bud, Billy (Sam Rockwell); and chugs the hard stuff until he blacks out. The words drip from Marty’s pen slowly, but he has faith or at least a promising title for his next project: “Seven Psychopaths.” All he needs to do is write the thing.
To judge from this movie, that’s the same hurdle Mr. McDonagh faced too. Meta to the max, filled with clever jokes and observations that stick like barbs and deflated ones that land with a thud, “Seven Psychopaths” is a leisurely riff about movies, violence, storytelling and the art of the steal. It’s slight if sometimes amusing, partly because it has one of those casts studded with appealing faces like Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg, the reunited co-stars from “Boardwalk Empire,” who put in a day or so of work. Like guests, they rotate in and out fast, as do Harry Dean Stanton, Kevin Corrigan, Gabourey Sidibe (who deserves better), Tom Waits and Zeljko Ivanek.
Both Woody Harrelson, as a gangster with a missing dog and a neck tattoo, and Christopher Walken, as a scam artist with a past and a neck scar, happily stick around longer. Each is a pleasure to watch, though the sui generis Mr. Walken, who can enunciate any scrap of throwaway dialogue into something listenable, is an extra special Mad Hatter party incarnate. The dependably watchable Mr. Farrell, meanwhile, holds the center well, despite having to share most of his scenes with a boatload of showboaters. His numerous double takes at times evoke the lazily indifferent, latter-day Dean Martin when he wasn’t kept in check by Howard Hawks. Maybe it’s all the booze.
Yet a kind of dispassion or at least its chill veneer is also built into this movie simply because Mr. McDonagh has written and directed a comedy of cruelty that’s predicated on the dubious idea that the spectacle of creative failure is comic (rather than absurd). That this is largely a lie, unless it’s Mel Brooks doing “The Producers,” should go without saying, and it’s instructive that Mr. McDonagh sells the lie slathered in blood, which suggests that there’s a great deal of boiling rage or maybe self-loathing beneath the jokes, the cake-and-eat-it-too attacks on women and movie allusions. It’s a lie that, of course, he also tried to abandon when he made “Seven Psychopaths.”
“Seven Psychopaths” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Jokily delivered, bloody gun violence and sexist slurs.January 3, 2013 at 11:08 am #71862
In my review of Martin McDonagh‘s In Bruges I wrote, “It’s a black comedy that works when it’s black but not so much when it’s trying to be a comedy.” His followup, Seven Psychopaths, has the same problem, but all of it is trying to be a comedy, so none of it works.