Seven Psychopaths (2012)

UK / 110 minutes / color / Blueprint, Film 4, BFI, Momentum Dir & Scr: Martin McDonagh Pr: Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Martin McDonagh Cine: Ben Davis Cast: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Željko Ivanek, Linda Bright Clay, Long Nguyen, Harry Dean Stanton, Amanda Warren, Richard Wharton.

An intermittently amusing noirish black comedy, this is McDonagh’s follow-up to IN BRUGES (2008), which also starred Farrell. It’s at its best in its parodies of the Tarantino school of neonoir.

Wannabe Hollywood scriptwriter Marty Faranan (Farrell) has an idea for a screenplay title—The Seven Psychopaths—but not for the screenplay to go with it, except that it should abjure violence and promote peace and love. His best friend, actor Billy Bickle (Rockwell), moonlights for elderly Hans Kieslowski (Walken), who’s running a dognapping racket to help pay for the cancer treatments of his hospitalized wife Myra (Clay). Billy’s latest capture, Barney, is a shihtzu belonging to psycho hoodlum Charlie Costello (Harrelson), who’s prepared to commit major mayhem in order to get his pet back.

Billy feeds Marty stories about deranged killers, notably one about a Quaker (Stanton) who dogs the psychopathic murderer of his daughter until the latter, reckoning the father won’t follow him to Hell, slits his own throat . . . only to see the vengeful Quaker do likewise. Another psycho, Zachariah (Waits), responds to a newspaper ad Billy places and tells his own story, of how he and his girlfriend Maggie (Warren) in their youth were serial killers of uncaught serial killers; she left him when he balked at their savage murder of the Zodiac Killer (Wharton). A further psycho introduced tangentially is Vietnamese pseudo-priest Dinh (Nguyen), who has come to the US seeking revenge for the slaughter of his family in My Lai.

Unknown to the rest of the cast, Billy is having an affair with Angela Pavlovich (Kurylenko), Costello’s mistress; when she finds out Billy has stolen Costello’s dog, she tries to inform the gangster. To stop her, Billy murders her; it’s then that we discover what we’ve suspected all along, that he’s the infamous masked Jack o’ Diamonds Killer, who has been terrorizing Hollywood . . .

There’s much more—perhaps a bit too much more, because in the latter half of the movie the narrative seems to lose its way a tad.

Walken, playing a fairly subdued part for once, is wonderful as the sentimental old man deeply in love with his sick wife; the passages between him and Clay are genuinely touching. Rockwell is good too as the glib controller of the tale, and Waits impresses as the sincere, slightly dotty old geezer, bearing his pet rabbit everywhere, who just wants to make sure Marty gets his story straight in the script and gives him proper screen credit. Harrelson, second choice for the role of Costello after Mickey Rourke dropped out over “creative differences” with helmer McDonagh, manages brilliantly to swing between vicious brute and figure of fun—even as we’re laughing at him he instils fear in us, because we’re constantly anticipating a sadistic act from him.

On Seven Psychopaths / Les Psychopathes (Bilingual) and Seven Psychopaths (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)

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