Sunday, February 10, 2013

Seven Psychopaths: A Wonderful Collection of Actors

Movie Review: Seven Psychopaths

Director: Martin McDonagh

Reviewed: 8 February 2013

jamesintexas rating--***1/2

I'm a huge fan of Martin McDonagh's dialogue.  From "In Bruges" to the play "A Behanding in Spokane," his profane characters (usually killers, usually Irish) spout wonderful lines of poetry, cutting into the world around them with verbal acid, attacking the chaos in their lives.  No one goes gentle into that good night.  McDonagh's lines are laugh out loud funny from the very first exchange, and to hear Christopher Walken speak them is a delight.  Walken is maybe the best part of "Seven Psychopaths," but there are wonderful monologues delivered by Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, and even Tom Waits.  "Seven Psychopaths" is audacious and fun in the same way Shane Black's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" was; it is quick and then slow, it skewers time and comments on its own storytelling, and it dazzles with its dream sequences and action shoot-outs.  As Sam Rockwell utters more than once, "This is my movie and I'm in charge of how it ends."

Farrell is Marty, a boozy writer trying to craft a screenplay.  Rockwell is his best friend Billy who keeps him supplied with ideas and also kidnaps people's dogs for money.  Walken as Hans helps return the dogs and collect the rewards.  Harrelson is Charlie who loses his beloved Shih-Tzu, and all hell breaks loose.

The film is talk-heavy and deeply funny.  There are wonderful scenes with Rockwell's zaniness mixed with Walken's laconic strangeness.  The overall playfulness of the film's construction means that Rockwell can narrate a ten-minute dream-ending sequence in a graveyard with Walken rising out of a grave, guns crossed over his chest like some sort of Nosferatu.  There is time to hear Waits's bizarre tale of a serial killing pair of serial killers who hunt down an astonishing array of baddies.  Walken can wander the desert with a tape recorder, pausing and ruminating upon any subject he likes.  And McDonagh can interrupt his own credits to ensure that all strands of story have been collected.

"Seven Psychopaths" assembles a dazzling array of talented actors and then lets them loose.  Farrell took a turn in his career for the better, and it may have started with his "In Bruges" work with McDonagh, and I love seeing him act.  In film after film, he exudes charisma and confidence; I hope he stays away from big-budget action adventure shlock forever.  Walken is having a banner year with this role as well as his work in "Stand Up Guys" and "Final Quartet."  There is no one that I would rather hear mangle the word "hallucinogen."  Rockwell is having the most fun and carries the movie with his manic energy.  His riff on Ghandi's "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind" is one of the best pieces of dialogue of the year.  And, Harrelson is a seething mess of anger,  infinitely fun to behold.

Casting is one piece of this film's success, but without McDonagh's words, the film would not work.  Luckily, McDonagh is a playwright, an architect of profane poetry, and a lover of digressions and silliness.  Sometimes, a film needs a good fire, some blankets, and an overnight camp out in the gorgeous Joshua Tree National Park to tell its tale.

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