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Seven Psychopaths - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Seven Psychopaths
Directing: A-
Acting: A-
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B
Editing: A-

Seven Psychopaths is a surprise on many levels, and not just because when Christopher Walken as pacifist Hans says, "It's layered," he's talking about both a movie idea he just heard and the movie he's actually in. There's a very subtle meta thread throughout this movie, in a way that never quite draws attention to the fact that it's being self-referential.

This is a very skilled and tightly polished script by Martin McDonagh, who also directed, and who also brought us the equally great In Bruges four years ago. This time, instead of in Bruges, we're in L.A.; and although we're once again treated to Colin Farrell, this time he's -- of course -- a screenwriter. He's also possibly the sanest character on screen, even while perpetuating the stereotype of Irish drunkards.

Marty has this great title for a movie, you see: Seven Psychopaths. And as the Seven Psychopaths we're watching unfolds, we discover which of the seven in his script are inspired but the nutcase friends of his -- or the nutcases with whom they have run-ins -- and which are just totally made up. Seven is kind of a lot; the only one I remember for sure is a total fabrication is -- oh, I won't ruin it.

Pretty much all these guys are, to varying degrees, bad people. Somehow they are weirdly lovable -- even Woody Harrelson as Charlie, the psychotic criminal hell-bent on getting back his beloved Shih Tzu. Because you see, Marty's friends Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans are making a living by scamming reward money from people whose dogs they've kidnapped. They don't realize it's his dog they've snatched when they take it from Charlie's dog walker (Gabourey Sidibe, who after Precious unfortunately seems to have been reduced to bit parts).

But that's not all! There's also Hans's wife, Myra (Linda Bright Clay), who is in the cancer ward; Marty's girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish), who Billy thinks is a bitch but she seems okay to me; and Billy's girlfriend Angela (Olga Kurylenko), who also happens to be Charlie's girlfriend. Hans reads Marty's script and comments on how poorly represented the women are, and how expendable they always seem to be. The fates of these women aren't much better on average, but McDonagh uses them in a way that elevates them as characters even as they are a statement on the use of women in typical Hollywood movies.

Did I mention Harry Dean Stanton as the "Man in Hat"? Tom Waits as Zachariah, the sort-of psychopath? Well, maybe I don't need to. All of the many actors in this movie are put to perfect use but you kind of have to be there.

Seven Psychopaths never moves too quickly, and yet it has an unusual snap to it. Characters will offer opinions on what should or should not happen in Marty's script, and then the story they themselves are playing out will follow suit. Should there be a grand shootout, or a past merciless criminal now repentant having meaningful conversations with his closest buddies while camping in the desert? Can we have both?

This is a movie that wants to have it all, and actually, it gets it. This could easily have gotten over-busy and overloaded with pointless twists and turns, and yet it presents characters who are both individuals and archetypes. Martin McDonagh even plays a little with the reputations of the actors themselves: it's a bit of a kick to see Christopher Walken playing a pacifist. He even smiles a lot in this movie, which almost feels weird. It works though.

"It held my attention," says Hans at one point, after hearing Billy's preposterous -- yet undeniably entertaining -- version of how he thinks Marty's movie should end. The same could be said of this movie, which has intellectual undercurrents through its many laugh-out-loud moments. It's a very rare movie in that sense. "It's layered," indeed. It's not often we get something the works both as mindless entertainment and very subtle yet pointed satire -- that's a very delicate balance that can easily implode on itself. But Seven Psychopaths has a slightly goofy sensibility that quite deliberately belies its depth.

seven psychopaths

Overall: A-
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