Let's get the insane plot of Seven Psychopaths out of the way: Marty (Collin Farrell) is a struggling Irish screenwriter, who hopes to finish his screenplay for a film called "Seven Psychopaths," while battling a case of writer's block and author-indecisiveness. His best friend is Billy (Sam Rockwell), a boisterous dog-thief, who usually winds up dictating Marty's life rather than helping him along in tough times. Hans (Christopher Walken) is Billy's best friend and partner in crime when it comes to dog-snatching. After both Hans and Billy steal an unpredictable crime boss's (Woody Harrelson) shih-ztu, it becomes a violent, relentless cat-and-mouse chase to get the pup back, and in the meantime, we get lengthy monologues between characters about the production of "Seven Psychopaths" and how Marty's inspiration begins to bubble when he starts considering the barrage of real psychopaths in his own life.
There are several films that exist about the movie-making process and it is a very difficult genre to make effectively. Seven Psychopaths succeeds in balancing the art of characters and the art of plot coherency, and it doesn't cross the line of becoming too involved in the process and too concerned with "in" jokes that leave the audience lost. To put it simply; the actors look like they're having fun, but they make sure we are still amused and connected with the film.
Right off the bat, the first thing one can commend about this entire experience are the rich performances by actors of all different career heights. Collin Farrell plays a wonderful straight-laced man victim to idiocy and unhelpful circumstances, and is only made better by Sam Rockwell's character's shameless belligerence. Woody Harrelson, giving us one of his many diverse roles in recent years, has the rare ability of rustling up a fierce moment of seriousness and delivering a devilishly funny laugh in the same breath. And who could forget supporting-role king Christopher Walken, who continuously borders the line of self-parody here in a memorably sophisticated role? At times, Seven Psychopaths is a witty riot and at other times, it can be monotonous and lengthy. For starters, the film looks and feels like a Quentin Tarantino film blended with the likes of Guy Ritchie. Shots have a very slim sense of narrative cohesion and many, many times are we left bewildered at what we just watched. It's also apparent that the film has a meta, self-aware tone that can be pleasantly charming, and sometimes cloying and overly-cheeky. To simply my feelings; after many sequences was I trying to comprehend what was just given to me and how was I supposed to digest the experience all together.
I mentioned my feelings that the film seemed to drag and felt a little too long - specifically the final scene in the desert which is roughly twenty-five to thirty minutes. Perhaps if your interest is in cheeky comedies and self-aware humor, you won't mind at all. The film is certainly smarter and a lot brighter than some of the flyweight, narrow-minded comic exercises that have bestowed on the mainstream public in recent years. For once, it's refreshing to see a comedy pay close attention to its characters, its events, and its performance, never shortchanging anyone in the process.
NOTE: There's also something very, very different about the cinematography of this picture, different from any kind of visual atmosphere I have seen this year. The southern California area seems to be captured through a grungy, saturated lens with colors appearing bright, humid, and very warm. This easily makes Seven Psychopaths one of the most visually calm pictures of the year.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, and Olga Kurylenko. Directed by: Martin McDonagh.
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