Colin Farrell and Sam Rockwell star as best friends Marty and Billy. Marty is an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter trying to write an original screenplay entitled “Seven Psychopaths” and Billy is a dog kidnapper who teams up with Hans (Christopher Walken in his best role in years). Our heroes run into trouble when Billy kidnaps the wrong dog: a Shih Tzu owned by sadistic mafia boss Charlie Costello (a hilarious Woody Harrelson). On the way of trying to maneuver around Costello’s rabid attempts to get his beloved dog back, Marty continues trying to survive while simultaneously finding that coming up with the seven psychopath characters isn’t going to be as as difficult as he thought. Creative vision, creative vision, creative vision, oh, how I’ve missed you. This year has given us quite a few impressive testaments of untarnished creative vision, from Looper and The Dark Knight Rises to Ted and Prometheus. With my particular preference in storytelling, I’ve had a lot to love this year. Yet I don’t think a single film so far has matched (or can match) the creative vision that runs absolutely rampant in writer/director Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths.
Seven Psychopaths goes beyond having a unique cinematic voice; it’s far too explosive for that. No, think Adaptation made by Quentin Tarantino. It’s an amalgamation of Tarantino and Charlie Kaufman that takes the best features of both storytellers and slams them together in ensemble portrait not unlike a Jackson Pollock piece. It’s an orgasmic phenomenon. I would actually go so far as to say this is the best Tarantino film that Tarantino never made. It doesn’t falter from its focus and knows what it’s doing every step of the way.
There’s a real joy in experiencing this film unfold before us, revealing all its character and structural idiosyncrasies bit by bit. It’s so unpredictable and enjoyable that we have a big smile on our face as we wonder: “Now what are these rascals gonna do next?” It’s that anticipation that keeps us in and wanting more. There’s so much to enjoy.
Every single actor comes across as entertainingly manic. It’s a riot to see Colin Farrell playing such a straight-up regular guy thrown into a mess. Sam Rockwell is practically hyperactive in how he’s got the most oddball stuff to do and does it with great energy. Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson are absolute delights in all their scenes, with Tom Waits clocking in with a surprisingly nuanced cameo. I adore this cast and their chemistry. Seldom is an ensemble so full of such rich, showstopping characters. (Editor’s note: It is rumored that Heath Ledger studied Waits mannerisms in order to portray The Joker. Watch how Waits tells a story and you’ll see Ledger’s performance.)
I love how we can tell what we see onscreen is just too big to fit into one movie. There’s so much raw, undulated thought going into it that we feel like each and every one of these characters could have showcased a movie all by themselves. With a massive ensemble piece like this, that NEVER happens. But each character has the drama, the conflict and a compellingly active nature where we totally see that these people having lived full lives outside of this 2-hour session. Because we see them as larger-than-life characters, we’re constantly pulled in with what they’re going to do next. Nothing is predictable when you’ve got psychopaths like these people.
This film combines so many of the bits and pieces that make up what I love about movies in general. It’s so enjoyably wacky, shockingly violent and riotously funny that it is easily the best meta-humor thriller I’ve come across since Tarantino’s early years. It doesn’t just go against the rules, it defies them. It looks them over and laughs as it bulldozes over them. This film succeeds in ravaging the stereotypes and making some practically undefinable.
This is that rare, transcendent movie that has everything both sides of the cinematic spectrum want. With McDonagh’s biting, witty script and a glowing cast, Seven Psychopaths finds that elusive perfect middle ground where everyone can find something to be wowed by. Filmmakers and writers can respect the hell out of it and everyone else can look on saying: “Well, I’ve definitely never anything like that before.” Sometimes a creative vision can become so vast, unpredictable and epic that it bowls you over with effortless precision, and man, I can’t wait to see what Martin McDonagh does next.
You can find more of Joe’s writings on his movie website: http://movievu.info
In Theaters: October 12, 2012
Rating: R (for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use)
Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko, Gabourey Sidibe
Genre: Dark Comedy
Distributor: CBS Films
Official Site: http://www.sevenpsychopaths.com