Should You Watch It: Seven Psychopaths

October 16, 2012 2:36 pm 0 comments

After a relatively uninteresting summer, Hollywood might be bouncing back with some quality flicks this fall. Seven Psychopaths is quirky, but certainly one of them.

Matt Ford

How to describe Seven Psychopaths:

Take a dash of goofy/gritty crime classic Snatch, throw in a Coen Brothers twist of nihilism, and sprinkle the disjointed (but purposeful) vignetting of Pulp Fiction. Add a hearty helping of Christopher Walken, and you have Seven Psychopaths. 

Shorter: It’s like a better version of Smoking Aces. 

Seven Psychopaths is about a Los Angeles screenwriter, played by a (surprisingly?) capable Colin Farrell, whose writer’s block is mended by his homicidal homeboy (Sam Rockwell). The two end up teaming with a dog kidnapper (Walken) who steals Woody Harrelson’s shih tzu and has to suffer the consequences.

From the get-go, this movie is wildly entertaining. The humor is biting, the storytelling is suspenseful, and the character development is well-executed.

Here are five reasons you should see Seven Psychopaths:

1) Marvelous acting, top to bottom. Rockwell nails a unique role: good friend and unstable psycho killer. Tom Waits — the guy holding the rabbit, but more famous for this  (and many other songs) — adds dimension to the strangest character in this movie (of many strong contenders).

Seven Psychopaths is peppered with engaging bit parts; a ton of quality actors — among them Gabourey SidibeOlga Kurlyenko, Kevin Corrigan, and Boardwalk Empire castmates Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg – all appear in this movie. For a combined total of maybe four minutes of screen time.

And Harrelson expertly channels the unscrupulousness of his character in No Country For Old Men (had he survived the altercation with Anton Chigurh, of course).

2) Truly crazy characters. Imagine being a studio executive being pitched the list of characters for this film:

  • An Amish father avenging his murdered daughter
  • An ex-Viet Cong in America killing US soliders
  • Dexter-esque serial killer who kills bad guys and dreams of writing grindhouse movies
  • A gangster who kills for his three-pound mutt
  • An Irish writer with an ex-girlfriend and a drinking problem.

Go back to pretending to be the studio executive: How can you say no to that pitch? Deeply developed and unique characters are the calling card of this film.

3) Unusual storytelling. The film acknowledges the difficulties writers often face when starting new projects. You know, those ugly times you spend shoving your hands in your brain, sifting through a garbage heap of shitty ideas. So, aptly, the storyline follows that of a drunken writer assembling plot. (Wish I could relate to that…) In fact, the characters even crow about what kind of plot line they’d like to see take shape in the film as it’s happening.

Furthermore, characters and side stories pop up out of nowhere. Farrell’s character (who is at least an homage to the real-life writer) acknowledges at some points he “doesn’t know what to do” with certain characters in the film.

In other words, you get the sense Martin McDonagh, the writer and director of the film, wanted to shed a facetious light into his mind — the mind of someone who makes a living writing movies about serial killers.

Or he is a sort of optimistic nihilist who believes all people from serial screenwriters to serial killers are brought together by happenstance. Cue the Coen Brothers:

4) Satiring action movies. One of the adjectives one could use to describe Seven Psychopaths is “self-aware.”

At one point, the three main characters — Rockwell’s, Walken’s and Farrell’s characters — are sitting together around a campfire. The criminals (Walken and Rockwell) pitch the screenwriter (Farrell) ideas for his developing film script (titled, of course, Seven Psychopaths). Rockwell, who is eager to contribute to the film, pitches a scene so gory Tarantino would blush, and so plotless even the writers of Entourage would cringe.

But the best part is: as Rockwell’s character breathlessly designs a nonsensical battle sequence, you actually see it happen. Machine guns, bloody deaths, endless “NOOOO’s” — the works.

It’s as if McDonagh says, “Anyone can write an action sequence,” a tongue-in-cheek challenge to himself and other writers to eschew the tired “Hollywood Action Film” formula. And he makes this point… in the second act of an action film.

Pretty cool.

5) Christopher Walken. You thought I could go a whole column without talking about my favorite actor alive? One of the things I wrote a few months ago when we put Walken in the HMGL Hall of Fame (which Grantland recently, ahem, paid homage to, ahem, several months after I wrote the same article…) was how remarkable his range is. Immortal villain in Bond and Batman movies, yes, but also one of two people who can host Saturday Night Live any time he wants.

Walken adds vintage garnish to a comic role, as could be expected, but also showcases sensitivity during his character’s frequent visits with his wife who is hospitalized with cancer. There are trademark Walken moments throughout the film (see the trailer at the top: “FACK the cops! FACK ‘em!”). His skills are too prodigious to ignore in this column.

Or anywhere else, for that matter. Right, Grantland?

Matt Ford (matt@hiremegrantland.com) is the Editor in Chief of Hire Me Grantland. Read his manifesto on the terrible luck suffered by DMV sports fans here. Or his way-off predictions of who would win the Emmys here. Follow us on Twitter. Or bring it on home. 

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