News Column

'Seven Psychopaths' Crazy Like a Fox

Oct. 12, 2012

James Verniere, Boston Herald

Seven Psychopaths

For a film about nothing, "Seven Psychopaths" is awfully entertaining.

In Martin McDonagh's comic opera-like meta-effort, Colin Farrell plays a hard-drinking Hollywood screenwriter from Ireland named Marty working on a screenplay entitled "Seven Psychopaths." Yes, it is that kind of movie (and not to be confused with "Se7en," I'm sure).

McDonagh's "In Bruges," also with Farrell, was in my top 10 films of 2008. "Seven Psychopaths" isn't in quite the same category, but it is a "Player"-like spoof of Hollywood with an amazing cast (Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Woody Harrelson, Harry Dean Stanton) and an amusing deconstruction (yes, that word) of the popular, psycho-killer film genre. Of course, most of the films referenced in "Seven- Psychopaths" are parodies to begin with. But, hey.

Beginning with hit men arguing about movies in which characters get shot in the eyeball as they await the target of their hit, the film follows among other things the antics of the "Jack of Diamonds" killer, who leaves a jack of diamonds playing card with the bodies of his victims. Farrell's sodden Marty lives with the gorgeous Kaya (Cornish) and hangs out in old Art Deco L.A. with layabout Billy (Rockwell), who sidelines as a dog snatcher with buddy Hans (Walken). Hans is a dapper, cadaverous older fellow in a cravat, whose wife is dying of cancer.

When a member of their team inadvertently kidnaps a Shih Tzu named Bonnie that belongs to gangster and homicidal maniac Charlie (Harrelson), the Shih Tzu hits the fan.

Subplots further tell the tale of a pair of star-crossed serial killers on the road, a revenge-bent Vietnamese immigrant disguised as a Catholic priest and an Amish psychopath (Stanton). As the various plots unfold, characters tell stories to one another that we see as flashbacks, while Farrell's scribe "writes" the main story as it moves along to an appropriately bloody and blazing final shoot-out.

It is all very clever, complete with onscreen captions identifying the psychopaths and their numbers, but eventually McDonagh's house of movie mirrors collapses into a heap of glittering shards. The female characters in the story certainly get the short end of this postmodern schtick.

But McDonagh, whose dialogue suggests an un-holy marriage of Harold Pinter and Ricky Gervais, has an unusual-ly sophisticated comic style. He remains in love with the music of genre-movie dialogue, and his cast members, speaking in the accents they grew up with, are in excellent voice. Walken has long since joined the ranks of the screen's most accomplished vocalists. With his clarinet-like repertoire of beeps, squeaks, squeals, whines, ululations and angry blasts, he delivers a virtuoso performance and is an often hilarious joy to listen to. If Nosferatu could speak, this is what he would sound like.

("Seven Psychopaths" contains profanity, extreme violence, nudity, drug use, you name it.)

Source: (c)2012 the Boston Herald Distributed by MCT Information Services

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