Friday, October 19, 2012

Seven Psychopaths Review

Last week, I reviewed Argo, a film about the use of fake movie to extract diplomats from Iran. It was also a look at Hollywood filmmaking. Well, here comes Seven Psychopaths, another movie that uses filmmaking as part of the plot. Yes, filmmakers are taking Mark Twain's advice of "Write what you know."

Seven Psychopaths is about Marty, (Colin Farrell) an alcoholic and struggling screenwriter. He has some truly bad ideas for movies unless you're into avant garde cinema. Helping him is his friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell). Billy works with Hans (Christopher Walken) in a dogknapping business. Their modus operandi is that they steal a dog and return it to the owner for a reward. Unfortunately, they steal Charlie Costello's dog (Woody Harrelson), who just happens to be a mobster. Costello kills anybody who gets in his way to get his dog back. The problem for Marty, Billy, and Hans is how do they get out of this dilemma.

Look if you got a movie about crazy people, you can't resist the casting of Christopher Walken. He was born to play crazy. And he doesn't disappoint. The surprising thing is that his character is very loving man as evidenced by his dedication to dying wife. Of course Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson know how to bring out crazy behavior too. They've done it many times.

But this movie is advertised as a comedy. That's only partially correct. I got a feeling that director-writer Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) put an alter ego in Marty. It's about the writing of a film. Did McDonagh have writer's block that caused him to write this loopy movie? Don't know.

So does Seven Psychopaths work as a comedy? Only partially. It's hard to be funny when there is so much ugly violence on the screen. People get their limbs hacked off, heads are blown off, blood everywhere, setting people on fire and of course there's self-immolation. Even a running joke about how badly women are written in movies falls flat as the women in this movie, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko are given thankless roles. It would have been better if McDonagh used them in a funny way. No such luck.

I do admire McDonagh's directing skills. The colors in this film are rich. There is a thankful lack of hand-held camera shots. He knows how to frame a scene. And he lets his actors act. I found the dialogue to be captivating. You can thank McDonagh for getting out of the way.

Seven Psychopaths is less of a comedy and more like an essay on the art of telling a cinematic story. It could use more laughs but is still well made. The grade is B.

No comments: