SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012)

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012)
Movie Review by Nick Cato

Martin McDonagh, who directed Colin Farrell in 2008’s IN BRUGES, returns to the director’s chair to once again guide Farrell through another dark comedy that’s also more violent than most horror and action films; by the crowd’s reaction (at least where I attended a screening), they seemed to love it or hate it. Or in this case, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS apparently left some viewers undecided.

Farrell plays Marty, a struggling screenwriter. His best friend Billy (played by the wonderfully demented Sam Rockwell) attempts to help him write his current project (titled SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS) and keeps coming up with some really “out-there” ideas. But Farrell takes them, and before long his screenplay begins to take shape.

Unknown to Marty, Billy is involved with an unusual money making scheme with his senior citizen friend Hans (played by Christopher Walken in one of his funniest—and most heartfelt—performances in years). Hans and Billy kidnap dogs from wealthy-looking people and then wait for “missing dog” signs to appear, and then return the mutts for reward money. Hans is using his share to help pay medical bills for his cancer-stricken wife, Myra (and although she only appears for a short time, actress Linda Bright Clay does a fantastic job portraying Hans’s better half).

Things take a wicked and funny turn when Billy kidnaps a Shih Tzu that belongs to a gangster (Charlie, played with anarchic abandon by Woody Harrelson). Before long Charlie has his goons ripping L.A. apart looking for the pooch, and when they discover Hans’s operation, Charlie decides the best way to get to Hans (who he can’t find) is to get to his wife.

Fans of singer Tom Waits are in for a real treat; his performance as psychopath Zachariah shows he can act as well as pen a solid tune. And one of his scenes is arguably the funniest in the film.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATH’s plot is simple, but thanks to writer/director McDonagh, there’s plenty of depth to each character, and the story reveals levels not common to mainstream Hollywood comedies. What I liked best was how we see the struggle of a writer; Marty is at wit’s end and is just desperate enough to accept Billy’s crazy ideas to get his screenplay moving (an early scene featuring an unforgettable cameo by Harry Dean Stanton, as a psychopathic Quaker, had me in stitches). And as the film moves along, Billy’s psyche is unraveled one funny layer at a time, in the end turning him into something I think few people will have expected.

I’m sure the violence level will turn some people off: there’s graphic throat slashings, countless bullets-to-the-head, and in one dream sequence, a head explosion that rivals anything in David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS (1981). SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS does a good job going from laugh-out-loud funny to halting the viewer with a grim kill scene…and thanks to the aforementioned part by Linda Bright Clay, a few serious, tension-filled moments worthy of any blockbuster thriller.

Most of the second half takes place in the desert, as Marty, Billy, and Hans both hide and wait for Charlie to find them. During this sequence, Hans takes a tape recorder and explains his idea for Marty’s screenplay. What he says is shown at the end of the film, and it’s classic Walken all around. I’m a major Walken fan (I even sat through his 1995 turd-bucket SEARCH AND DESTROY), and am thrilled he has taken this role that will surely go down as one of his all-time best. Or at least all-time funniest.

If your sense of humor leans toward the dark side, check out SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. It’s as grim as it is funny, and unlike the majority of junk coming out of Hollywood, features a textured story that will surely hold up well to repeat viewings.

4 out of 5 bloody Knives.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Marty (Colin Farrell) attempts to understand suggestions for his screenplay given by Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken).

 

Nick Cat gives SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS  ~FOUR knives.

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