Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Seven Psychopaths


SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson (109 min.)

We all know, or maybe we are, those people whose office or work space looks like a complete mess, is in shambles; but when they need to find something they know right where to go and have no problem finding what they need.  Seven Psychopaths is the cinematic version of this person, a film that looks and acts like a mess but has strict purpose, focus, and knows right where it put all those important points.  It bounces wildly from one point to the next, from scene to scene, but it is done with such joy and conviction the audience cannot help but bounce right along with it.  It is funny, serious, heartfelt, violent, and peaceful; it is everything and, perhaps, nothing.  The only thing I can say for sure is, it's a lot of fun trying to figure out.

The meta-fictional plot floats in and out of reality and the fiction of a screenplay.  The screenwriter is Marty (Colin Farrell) who has the title of his screenplay, "Seven Psychopaths," but nothing else besides imagined stories of the psychos.  Or maybe they aren't imagined at all, maybe Marty heard them at a party one time but he drinks way to much to remember these sorts of things.  Marty's best friend is Billy, played by Sam Rockwell who can play a bemused loon better than most.  I don't imagine it's coincidental Billy's last name is Bickle and he has a conversation with himself in a mirror.

Billy desperately wants to help Marty write his screenplay, but he also has a side business with his partner, Hans (Christopher Walken), kidnapping dogs and returning them for the reward money.  Hans is a gentile man with a past that may have leaked into Marty's story, or maybe not.  Either way, this is some of the best acting of Walken's career, at least in the last two decades.  He carries Hans with such sweetness, such ease, a different type of personality than most Walken characters.  Billy and Hans just so happen to kidnap a Shih Tzu belonging to Charlie, a cold-blooded killer with a soft spot for his puppy.  Woody Harrelson plays Charlie, and the pieces of the story fall into place, however sloppy it may appear.

I don't want to spoil the plot, but I don't think I could if I tried.  The trio of Billy, Hans, and Marty wind up entangled in murder and mayhem, all the while they try and finish this blasted script.  Marty wants it to be about more than killing and shootouts, Billy rolls his eyes at that notion.  Then they all manage to find themselves in the desert brainstorming with the help of a little peyote as the third act draws to a close.

Seven Psycopaths can be crass and it is most certainly violent, but it also manages to be quite sweet.  The scenes between Hans and his ailing wife, Myra (Linda Bright Clay), are especially touching.  I was surprised by the acting of Walken in these scenes.  Farrell is the pinball of the story, bouncing between the maniacal energy of Billy and the soft-spoken danger lurking behind the ascot Hans wears around his neck.  Director Martin McDonagh, who also wrote and directed the brilliant In Bruges, takes things up a notch with a bigger cast and wilder moments of violence.  But without his dedication to the wildly absurd, Seven Psychopaths wouldn't be near as much fun.

B+