The trailer for writer/director Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, his follow-up to In Bruges that stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, and Tom Waits, only touches the surface of the wild ride of a film. Playing at Toronto Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program, Psychopaths unleashes a fury of demented characters into a fight-to-the-death arena — in this case, Los Angeles, California (the deadliest of all) — and sits back observing the circus. Incited by the kidnapping of a mob bosses’ dog, all hell breaks loose for the titular seven as they scramble to fix loose ends and figure out their own problems. No one’s on the same page and that’s the fun of it.
In the spirit of the film, here are the seven reasons why Seven Psychopaths stands out as one of TIFF 2012’s best:
1. Sam Rockwell & a Shih Tzu
With an arsenal of dry wit and erratic behavior, Rockwell steals the show as Billy, an actor overflowing with imagination. Seven Psychopaths is an ensemble comedy, each character influencing the many storylines with their own bizarre tendencies, but Rockwell goes to town like few other of his contemporaries are even capable of doing. He’s a quick shooter, a dreamer, and a genuine psychopath as he struts around town helping Hans (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs for ransom money. That’s where his number two comes in: a little Shih Tzu dog at the center of the mob war. He’s the perfect counterpart for Rockwell; since Billy basically has the brain of a dog sniffing for Beggin’ Strips, it works.
2. Tom Waits acting crazier than ever
When Farrell’s Marty can’t overcome writer’s block on his new screenplay (titled, Seven Psychopaths!), Bill puts an ad in the paper calling for real like psychos to come over and tell their stories. That’s where Waits comes in, his Zachariah never flinching as he describes a life of love, murder, and bunny rabbits. Waits is a go to crazy guy, but he’s best used in Seven Psychopaths thanks to unavoidable charm. Zachariah may have burned a man alive at some point, but he presents the info with an amicable, casual nature that’s an absolute hoot. At some point, Zachariah crosses paths with the Zodiac Killer — and that’s not even the weirdest moment in the film. That should give you an idea of what to expect (or, better yet, how you really can’t expect anything).
3. The sharp dialogue
Martin McDonagh began his career as a playwright, carving a niche in the theater world with a blend of humor and bloody antics. His films have never lost that edge, Seven Psychopaths even one-upping In Bruges in terms of recreating his stage magic. As a story about telling stories, Seven Psychopaths features a lot of fast-paced banter, wisecracking that in the hands of a less defined voice might come off as jokey. But McDonagh knows timing, he knows how people really speak, and the often-awkward back-and-forths always land. McDonagh also embraces the monologue. A scene where Rockwell describes the perfect “final shoot out” scene, he waxes poetically without hesitation and every spoken word escalates the action.
4. The meta narrative
Seven Psychopaths is recognizable McDonagh, but it’s on the other end of the spectrum from In Bruges. The writer’s first film was a dramatic character study with some pitch black comedy. Psychopaths spins comedy out of the crass, flamboyant world of Hollywood. Like Barton Fink and Adaptation before it, the film feels like 90 minutes of the director venting on the industry. Think it’s easy to write a fresh screenplay? Psychopaths makes wheeling and dealing with killer mob bosses look easier.
5. Christopher Walkenisms
Christopher Walken’s unique cadence and appearance makes him… difficult to use correctly. He’s larger than life after year’s of great work — no doubt, one of your friends has a Walken impression up their sleeves. So while there’s always a chance that Walken will stand out and detach his role from a film, Seven Psychopaths utilizes him in the best way possible. The world is wacky, the tone is wacky, and Walken is really, really wacky. The man can say something as simple as “$500!” and make it uniquely his own. He’s not a real psychopath, but something wonderfully close.
6. The insane violence
McDonagh’s plays liberally let the blood flow. Entire dialogue scenes may take place between a man on a meat chain and his torturer. Nothing is off limits and McDonagh finds a way to make the extreme enjoyable. He does it again in Seven Psychopaths, blowing holes through characters like they’re paper dolls while doing it with an extra layer of comment. This is a movies about movies, and McDonagh makes sure to play with the gruesome while also acknowledging Hollywood’s weird obsession with violence.
7. Colin Farrell’s “WTF” face
Don’t let Total Recall inform your future opinions on Farrell (In Bruges should have earned him 15 “Get Out of Jail Free” cards). As the central figure and observer of Psychopaths psychopathy, he once again proves himself an undermined comedic talent. It’s all in Farrell’s eyes — a pair capable of provoking laughs even during the film’s calmer moments (yes, they exist).
[Photo Credit: CBS Films]
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