Seven Psychopaths (MA15+) – 3.5 STARS
Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish
DIRECTOR: MARTIN McDONAGH
REVIEW: SHANNON HARVEY
You'll like this if you liked In Bruges, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty, True Romance, Fargo, Burn After Reading, The Guard, Smokin' Aces
Not far into Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh's follow-up to his surprise hit, In Bruges, Colin Farrell gets sprayed with blood and vomit during a sudden shootout. He doesn't take it well. "Some punks jumped us," Christopher Walken explains to Sam Rockwell later. "They said they were looking for a little shih tzu. Then some other punk killed those punks. It's their blood. It's his puke."
Which cinephile wouldn't want to hear 69-year-old Walken deliver those and many other killer lines in a film called Seven Psychopaths? Especially when he's alongside the likes of fellow alpha males in Farrell, Rockwell and Woody Harrelson? It's worth the admission price alone in this violent, nutso farce, which is as much a love letter to crime capers as it is to Walken himself. "This is my writer-friend I was telling you about," Rockwell explains to him later. "I could smell the booze," Walken deadpans back in that staccato voice, like only he can.
See? Killer lines. It's a bit of a pity that this self-reflexive, postmodern play on crime capers isn't quite as clever as it pretends to be.
It tries hard to be a winking movie-within-a-movie written by Farrell's budding screenwriter as he encounters seven equally wacky killers. Yet the story itself doesn't quite have the oomph of the films it apes by the likes of Tarantino, Ritchie and the Coens.
Marty (Farrell) is an Irish drunk trying to write his first Hollywood screenplay. All he's got so far is the title; Seven Psychopaths. His friend Billy (Rockwell) runs a dog-napping racket with veteran hustler Hans (Walken). They snatch prize pooches, wait for the rewards to the posted, then return the mutts for mucho moolah. They unwittingly nab a button-cute shih tzu belonging to an off-kilter gangster (Harrelson), who comes gunning for them. At the same time, Billy wants to help Marty write that screenplay and places an ad calling for inspiration from real-life psychopaths. Bad idea? Duh!
McDonagh's second film starts out brilliantly, with Farrell playing a rare straight-man role, despite his amusingly cliched character - the drunk Irish writer named Marty.
The best moments come in the mini-movies that play out in Marty's mind as he imagines his screenplay. One stars Harry Dean Stanton as a Quaker psycho. Another stars Long Nguyen as a Vietnamese priest psycho.
Meantime, in real-life, a serial killer dubbed the Jack of Diamonds is taking out mobsters, and a man with a white rabbit (Tom Waits) tells Marty about his life as a serial killer - of serial killers!
Yet McDonagh jumps the meta-textual shark, so to speak, when characters and events in Marty's mind show up in his real-life, and vice versa. Things loop back on themselves until Marty, Billy, Hans and that cute shih tzu end up right where Marty writes them to be - camping out in a desert and talking. "We making French movies now," Billy complains.
Well, yes and no. McDonagh, an Irish playwright turning to movies, gets both styles in, from the self-mocking parody of crime capers, to the bloody shootouts and corny one-liners themselves. The actors clearly relish it, chewing as much on scenery as crackling dialogue. Especially Walken, who steals it long before his triumphant final line, which is sure to draw a cheer from every viewer.
It may go off the rails but boy, it sure is fun to watch Seven Psychopaths write itself as it goes along.