Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: Seven Psychopaths


Seven Psychopaths is being billed as a straight ahead comedy, which is going to piss a lot of people off. It’s actually a dark comedy, quite a dark one at that. Oh it’s still funny, in spots it’s hilarious. But if you go in expecting a broad comedy, you’re going to be unhappy. What you get instead is a weird, metatextual and often quite disturbing black comedy. It reads a bit like a crossbreeding of A Fish Called Wanda and Adaptation. And I mean that as the highest possible praise. Or, to put it another way: This movie is AWESOME.

Okay, let me try to explain the plot: Martin (Colin Farrel) is an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter having trouble writing his new movie, Seven Psychopaths (told you it was weird). He’s friends with Billy (Sam Rockwell) who supports himself by running a business with Hans (Christopher Walken) where they kidnap dogs, wait for the owners to post rewards and then return them (getttting weirder). But their latest kidnapping is the beloved dog of a high level gangster. Oh and there’s a masked killer running around murdering mid-to-high level mafia members. Oh and all this is interspersed with the tales of the psychopaths in Martin’s screenplay, some real, some imagined, some both.

Okay and that’s just the setup (it gets more complicated, ESPECIALLY when the 3rd act rolls around). But it all works, in a very weird way. A lot of the credit for it working has to go to the actors. Of course Sam Rockwell (IE, one of the most underappreciated actors working in Hollywood) turns in the best performance. He’s good when he’s being funny, good when he’s being creepy and GREAT when he’s somehow managing to be both. But everyone who’s seen Moon knows Sam Rockwell is a brilliant actor, what’s surprising is how much the others do. Colin Farrel has always been a better character actor than a leading man, but he really shines in this movie, having been given the opportunity to do both. And Christopher Walken, who has usually played parodies of himself, actually dials it back for the most part here, to what is probably one of his best performances in years.

The script is subtle and nuanced, and I want to spend some time talking about it’s genre deconstruction and how it turns out to parody and discuss the tropes and clichés of a certain genre by the end…but I can’t. Because the genre being deconstructed (and the WAY it ends up being deconstructed) are major spoilers and I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of them.

The direction is unique, in it’s way, especially the way it holds on certain shots for a long time, and how it intersperses dream sequences and flashbacks. Unfortunately it’s also where the movie gets its only major flaw, an inability to keep a consistent tone. Put simply, the movie is playing both the dark aspect AND the comedy aspect all the way to the hilt, and certain comedy scenes directly after dark scenes (and vice versa) occasionally grate. Still, it manages to find it’s groove part way through the 2nd act and holds it rather nicely.

Honestly, this movie was a pleasant surprise. It’s not the most sophisticated meta-narrative I’ve seen this year, but it’s an interesting one, and a great showcase for a group of talented people. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good smart dark comedy, a genre we don’t see enough of. Recommended. See you next time.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he wonders why the female characters are in the advertising: They’re barely in the movie.

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