Monday, April 15, 2013

Seven Psychopaths


directed by: Martin McDonagh
starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko, Abbie Cornish, Zeljko Ivanek, Harry Dean Stanton, Kevin Corrigan, Gabourey Sidibe

Released in 2012.

Seven Psychopaths could very easily be mistaken for the continuing series of movies that wish very badly they were directed by Quentin Tarantino.  Except, much like Joe Carnahan's movies, this is at worst a variation of a Tarantino flick.  It's a film by Martin McDonagh, and that's becoming a thing now, after this and In Bruges.

Both star Colin Farrell, although aside from gunplay there's very little else that's overtly similar between them, other than confident and spectacular filmmaking on a fairly intimate level.  Bruges was about a hitman who felt great remorse after the accidental murder of a little kid.  Psychopaths is about a writer who's trying to work on a new story, but his subject matter has inadvertently drawn him into the very life he's been trying to evoke.  The writer is Farrell, the friend who causes the latter is Sam Rockwell.  If you know Rockwell at all, and you should, that part should more or less explain itself.

It's the structure that really makes the movie pop.  McDonagh allows us to follow the characters Farrell is writing, and they have terrifically compelling narratives all their own, and even when you think the movie's done with them it surprises you again by bringing them back.  Part of that is because at least one of the characters is drawn from the web Farrell is being drawn into, an acquaintance played by Christopher Walken.  Walken is in top form.  He's got a famously deadpan expression, but he knows how to sell a role because hardly anyone delivers a line like he does.  I'll bet that anyone who just knows the name of the film and that Walken (not to mention Rockwell) appears in it will already think they know everything they need to know.

And yet the true genius of McDonagh is that he subverts every expectation.  He knows and you know because that's one of the themes, what Farrell's writer tries to do and Rockwell's main function is to try and embody the reverse.  Woody Harrelson is another presence that begs the boundaries of these expectations.

It's just this side of brilliant.

One of the things I look for in any movie that is or approaches brilliant is the ability to sneak in actors as good as the ones anyone will know appears in the movie in supporting roles.  Here the list includes Olga Kurylenko (proving once again she's not just a pretty face), Kevin Corrigan, and Harry Dean Stanton, who has made a career of these kinds of roles.  There's also Tom Waits, better known for his music, making another periodic movie appearance.  His most recent role was in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.  His appearance here is as similar as he could get.  It's also worth noting that the late Heath Ledger based his Joker in The Dark Knight on Waits.  Ledger's Joker is the iconic psychopath of modern cinema lore.  It stands to figure that Waits would have to be featured in a movie with that term in its title.

If you're another of those film fans like me who enjoyed the chaos of the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading, this is an experience you'll definitely enjoy.  Farrell is restrained, for the most part, but he loses his kit at least once, and that may be worth seeing right there.

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