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Dan's Review: Seven Psychopaths

Because murder is so dang funny.
Seven Psychopaths (CBS Films)

Starring Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Olga Kurylenko, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Woody Harrelson, Gabourey Sidibe, Kevin Corrigan, Željko Ivanek, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Linda Bright Clay, Harry Dean Stanton, Long Nguyen, Christine Marzano.

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:


Blowing people's heads off, slicing throats, burning people alive is so much fun. That could be a movie poster cut line for Seven Psychopaths, a new comedy in its way to theaters across the country this weekend.

The story centers around Marty (Colin Farrell), a struggling Irish screenwriter living in the Los Angeles area who is friends with Billy (Sam Rockwell), a quirky fellow who kidnaps dogs and has his friend Hans (Christopher Walken) collect reward money from grateful dog lovers. Meanwhile, Hans' wife is recovering from cancer surgery at a local hospital, while Billy tries to sabotage Marty's relationship with his girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish).

As Marty mulls ideas for a script that centers around seven psychopaths, Billy feeds his him story ideas, and even recruits actual killers via an ad in the newspaper for more inspiration. One of the killers who responds is Zachariah (Tom Waits), a creepy fellow who constantly strokes a pet rabbit.

In the meantime, a very real killer is roaming the southern California area, knocking off mid-level mafia hit men, while leaving a Jack of Diamonds card on their corpses.

One day, Billy and Hans snatch Bonny, the SchiTzu dog that belongs to mob boss Charlie Costello (woody Harrelson). When Charlie gets wind of the dog-napping plot, he goes ballistic and vows to take out his revenge on Hans, Billy, and Marty (who inadvertently gets involved in caring for Bonny).

Billy, Hans and Charlie escape to the desert, where they mull over Marty's movie script and await a great gun battle with Charlie and his henchmen.

Seven Psychopaths is the brainchild of writer-director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), and is full of a lot of eccentric, yet brutal humor. That humor does come in batches, and works fine with a script that falls somewhere in style between Aaron Sorkin, Quentin Tarantino and Neil Simon. The absurdity of a mob boss who values his dog over human life would be funny enough, but much of the great dialogue falls between some very graphic violence that has more shock value than humor. I suppose one could consider it "gore porn," but the movie might have been just as funny without all the exploding heads, people being burned alive and gushing neck wounds.

The story is clever, but it takes a while to figure out that what you're watching is the realization of the Marty's script. That leaves a lot of disjointed scenes, and the payoff is an ending you might see coming.

One fake-out you should also be aware of is the inclusion of Olga Kurylenko being used in a lot of the promotional material for Seven Psychopaths. In reality, Kurylenko plays neither a psychopath nor a main character (she's Charlie's girlfriend), showing up on screen for less than 5 minutes. Ironically, most the women in Seven Psychopaths are treated as being less than human and only worthy of a horrific death or name-calling, which is one of the criticisms Hans gives to Marty over his story. Perhaps it was intentional, but it does come across as a little more than misogynist.

Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are the anchors in the ensemble and the source most of the great and funny dialogue, but it's Walken who provides the standout performance in Seven Psychopaths, even while relying heavily on his trademark deadpan delivery.

Seven Psychopaths certainly earns its R rating with plenty of gore, violence, nudity/sexuality and harsh language, so don't mistake it for a "family" comedy.


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