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Review – Seven Psychopaths

With Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use. 109 minutes.

With a title like SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, you shouldn’t be expecting sweetness and light. This is a violent, profane and hilariously dark comedy about gangsters and lowlifes mixing it up in California (with a screenwriter who is inexplicably caught up in the confusion).

Marty (Colin Farrell) is working on a screenplay called “Seven Psychopaths.” His seedy friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) is looking to give him advice and perhaps even break into the movie business, although he has a different sideline. He and Hans (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs and then return them for the reward. It’s a relatively small con, but then they kidnap Bonny, a Shih Tzu owned by Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a thuggish mob boss who is especially attached to his dog.

When some of Charlie’s guys come calling, Marty has a hard time explaining that he’s just a writer and not part of the plot that is unfolding. Fortunately, a masked killer who has been running around killing mobsters and leaving playing cards in his wake comes to his rescue. This only makes Charlie angrier as well as making Billy even nuttier. To tell much more about the plot is pointless. Tom Waits shows up with a rabbit and the great character actor Harry Dean Stanton appears a man seeking vengeance. Like Marty, we have no choice but to go with the flow.

We’re in Tarantino territory here, with McDonagh’s screenplay resembling the “Pulp Fiction” creator’s “True Romance” (which was directed with manic glee by the late Tony Scott). This is a violent gangster film that wants us to focus not on the brutality, of which there is plenty, but on the absurdity. Most of these characters are monsters from the id running wild, which is why Walken’s sympathetic Hans is getting so much attention. Alone among the criminals he seems to have real feelings as opposed to just giving in to delusions and obsessions. Rockwell and Harrelson, by contrast, are clearly having fun, but by design their characters are completely over-the-top.

As for Farrell, he’s the “everywriter” caught up in these lethal high jinx, and he seems to be enjoying his reunion with writer/director Martin McDonagh. It was McDonagh’s first film, “In Bruges,” that helped to get Farrell’s faltering career back on track. His Marty is clearly in over his head, all the while trying to soak up useful details – even with a gun in his face – under the assumption that if he survives, he’s got a script that will write itself.

“Seven Psychopaths” is one of those movies where the action stops for a story that has little to do with the film, or perhaps for Billy’s vivid imagining of how it will all end. It then returns us to the action, a bit confused but too busy laughing to notice. Those wanting happy endings though, had better look elsewhere. While McDonagh is too smart to hurt the dog, nobody else is safe.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide will be released in January 2013. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

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