Friday, October 12, 2012

Seven Psychopaths stuffs a little too much into two hours, but it's well-written and funny throughout

Much like Rian Johnson injected some life into the sci-fi time travel subgenre, Martin McDonagh has done the same with the violent crime/black comedy type film that you'd find in abundance in the mid-late '90s. It's not perfect and in many ways, it is a step down from McDonagh's debut film "In Bruges" which was brilliant, but there is a lingering charm and cheekiness to the film makes you want to keep watching throughout its running time, even if it throws a lot at you.

Yes, Seven Psychopaths is definitely a smart film. It's well-written, has great dialogue, each actor plays an interesting character but there's a lot going on here and sometimes it gets perhaps too jumbled. In the first half, everything actually goes by pretty smoothly as we're introduced to all these wonderful characters. There's Marty (Colin Farrell), a screenwriter with a drinking problem, who's struggling to get his latest script off the ground which is also titled "Seven Psychopaths." While he tries to come up with seven different psychopaths to help his movie get going, his friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) also wants to help out and tries to give him ideas, although Marty isn't really too thrilled about his involvement.

Billy is an actor who's recently gotten involved with the dognapping business. It's pretty genius: kidnap someone's dog, the owner puts out a reward for the missing dog, then return dog and get reward. Perfect right? Hans (Christopher Walken) spearheads the dognapping business and it seems to be going fine until they wind up stealing a dog from an owner who also happens to be a bit of a psychopath (Woody Harrelson).

I wanted this film to be great as I was watching it because it all unfolds so smoothly and it's really funny in the first half. The characters are wildly entertaining and watching this ensemble cast work together is just a delight, especially when you got quirky oddballs such as Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton in the mix. But the film gets a little too wrapped up into its meta-universe by the second half and when it becomes all about "finishing Marty's movie," it just got too self-referential to be fun for me. 

Still though, Seven Psychopaths is definitely worth the watch and it's easy to tell that Martin McDonagh is a talented writer/director. He's got an assured, unassuming style and with In Bruges and this movie, he's established himself as an interesting filmmaker to watch in the coming years. It's not that Psychopaths felt like a lesser movie, it just felt like a movie that tried to do too much but McDonagh's so talented that its shortcomings can be more-or-less forgiven.  

So, to sum it up, I'd definitely would give Seven Psychopaths a whirl if you were halfway interested, you may be pleasantly surprised if your expectations are measured. And if you enjoyed this film and haven't seen In Bruges, do yourself a favor and rent that movie ASAP.

Grade: B

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