Friday, November 2, 2012
Movie Review: Seven Psychopaths
It often irks me how eager people are to use the term “ripoff” when it comes to movies. Any sci-fi horror film about monsters picking people off in a confined area is an Alien ripoff, any action film where the hero picks off the bad guys in a confined space is a Die Hard ripoff, etc. Hell, any film that just involves treasure hunting is automatically an Indiana Jones wannabe, as if Steven Spielberg invented the genre or something. And by the same token, it kind’ve bothers me that whenever a director makes a career out of crime films with witty dialogue, dark humor, and infrequent bursts of ultraviolence, then they are inevitably compared to Quentin Tarantino: Guy Ritchie is the British Tarantino, Joe Carnahan is less famous Tarantino, Troy Duffy is shitty Tarantino, you get the idea. So while I’m loathe to oversimplify Seven Psychopaths director Martin McDonagh as the Irish Tarantino, it is probably the most succinct way of describing him.
Martin McDonagh isn’t quite as big a name yet as he should be, despite having a few Oscars to his name. He actually started out in the 90’s as more like the Irish David Mamet, a well respected playwright in his home country. He made his film debut in 2005 with his short film Six Shooter, a hilariously violent little gem that featured among other things bunnycide and an exploding cow. McDonagh has this thing about violence against and around cute animals in his movies, I’m not really sure why.
He follows that up with the more toned down but equally entertaining In Bruges, the movie that proved to the world why Colin Farrell has a career in the first place. But Seven Psychopaths is easily his best, not to mention most insane film to date.
Colin Farrell returns, now playing a struggling screenwriter, with his latest film in production, which in Hollywood terms means he has the title and nothing else. Said film is also called Seven Psychopaths, a film within a film that allows McDonagh to make statements on the creative process. The narrative has a very stream-of-consciousness flow to it, as while Farrell and his friends, played in standout performances by Sam Rockwell & Christopher Walken, brainstorm ideas for their screenplay, the film itself plays like it's making most of this up as it goes along. That's not to say the film is haphazard or poorly thought out, it's simply intentional chaos all in service of the film's goal.
The film also has a witty, dark sense of humor. As mentioned, Sam Rockwell & Christopher Walken are the standouts, delivering the film's funniest moments. Rockwell is almost representative of Farrell's childish, gleeful id, a chaos inducing trouble maker who'll do anything to make "the story" more exciting & cinematic. Walken, by contrast, is the weary old soul who already been though it all and wan't nothing but peace & closure, driving the film in a quieter, more thoughtful direction. They give the film direction & conflict and are hilarious while doing so.
The film does carry with it a few disappoints. Most of the female characters, specifically those played by Abbie Cornish & Olga Kurylenko are extreme marginalized. Granted this is largely intentional, part of the film commentary on how sexist screenwriters tend to be, but given how the film often subverts the rules of traditional narrative as quickly as it follows them, it seems like these two could have been given more to do.
But overall, I more than recommend Seven Psychopaths. It's unique, engaging, intellectually challenging, and may end up being one of my favorites of this year.