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Capone says Martin McDonagh's SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS may have loads of blood and guts, but it's really one of the great tales of unsticking writer's block!!!

Published at: Oct. 12, 2012, 2:26 a.m. CST by Capone

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

When approaching his first feature-length film as writer-director, IN BRUGES, it appeared that renowned playwright Martin McDonagh took a simple approach, utilizing only a handful of characters in a single location, with one main story running through it. Apparently he got a little confidence with how beautifully that film turned out, because with his second movie, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, McDonagh has apparently been shot out of a cannon in this story of Los Angeles dognappers and the endless number of people with whom their lives intersect and the stories they all tell, both real and fictionalized. But what I think the film might actually be about is McDonagh diagraming the process of writing this very screenplay--piece by piece, character by character, bullet by head-piercing bullet.

I suppose the lead character is that of Marty (hmm, that name sounds familiar), played by Colin Farrell, who has always impressed me so much more in comedies than drama or action films. Marty is a screenwriter who's having a tough time getting his latest work under way, despite having a killer title: SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. He has no ideas for any of these seven characters, whose lives he's pretty sure will be connected somehow. He begins to draw inspiration from stories and situations happening around him.

A serial killer known as the Jack of Diamonds, who only seems to kill really bad people (such as hitmen played by Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg at the top of the film), has made his list as Psychopath No. 1. A story he is told by his dognapping best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) about a Quaker minister's (Harry Dean Stanton) revenge also factors into his writing. Thinking he's helping out his friend's writer's block, Harry puts an ad in the local paper looking for psychopaths with stories to tell, and this results in the rabbit-cradling Zachariah (Tom Waits) showing up on Marty's doorstep.

But SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS is also about two dognappers--Billy and Hans (Christopher Walken, in fine comic form)--who swipe dogs from rich neighborhoods, look for the Missing Dog signs in the area, then show up with the dog and collect the reward. We soon find out that Hans' wife is going through severe cancer treatment, and that's where all of his money goes. Before long, the pair swipe the wrong dog, one belonging to a mobster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson), who loses his mind and starts tracking them down, hurting or killing anyone in his path. What happens from this point is bloody, often funny, and usually unpredictable, which is why I won't say too much more about the plot.

McDonagh's first right move is his dead-on cast, which also includes Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Zeljko Ivanek and Kevin Corrigan. His other great gift is never being afraid to follow the best story he's got going. There's a recurring tale of a Vietnamese man (another one of Marty's psychopaths, this one fictional) who survived the Vietnam War, but who is seeking revenge against the American soldiers who raped and murdered his family while he was away from his village. In the screenplay, the character evolves (at one point he pretends to be a priest) but never drops from the mind of the writer. Marty knows he's got a great character, but just can't come up with solid story to place him in--the screenwriter's dilemma.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS might be a bit too all over the place for fans of traditional, linear narratives, and if that's the only way you can handle your storytelling, that's really too bad because you're missing out on some great films (and books and plays) in the process. There are no weak links in the many stories, but the partnership of Rockwell and Walken stole and broke my heart all at once. They hardly have a father-son dynamic, but there's still something exciting, twisted, and ultimately fun about their rapport.

As much as the film features embarrassment of wonderful bad language, gore, blood and nasty wounds, it's a lot more than that. In about the most roundabout way possible, this is the story of an artist trying to finish his best story to date. And in his role as filmmaker, McDonagh has achieved something similar. He's made it through film number two, and it's so much more ambitious and accomplished than his excellent first film. And in terms of pure entertainment value, it's no contest. If you have the stomach for an insane amount of violence, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS is a messy treat.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback

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  • Oct. 12, 2012, 2:44 a.m. CST

    This looks great

    by MrWonka

    and coming off In Bruges, which was a singular film, I'm definitely in for this one.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 3:08 a.m. CST

    This was awesome.

    by Rik Khaos

    Just saw it. The trailer doesn't do it justice. It gives it a wacky comedy vibe. I mean yes it is also a wacky comedy in it's own right but the trailer doesn't come anywhere near expressing how much heart this movie has. Solid cast, easily Sam Rockwell's best since Moon and I see shades of wild bill in this character. Don't wait, go fucking see it today.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 4:25 a.m. CST

    In Bruges is brilliant, hope this comes somewhere close

    by Dubster32

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 7:11 a.m. CST

    I hope this is half as good as In Bruges

    by ManInTheMembersOnlyJacket

    In Bruges was incredible--a delightfully weird mix of violence, humor, melancholy, and heart. It is honestly my favorite of Ralph Fiennes roles. If this is half as good, it will still be amazing. Oh, and Tom fucking Waits. He's been in some shit films, but I love the man. And I agree--Farrell is much better in comedy. I'm definitely looking forward to this one. Did anyone see "The Guard," from McDonagh's brother (I think)? Is it worthwhile?

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 8:24 a.m. CST

    Seems good, but......

    by DJGPROD

    I am concerned about it being too self aware. This reminds me of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Which was a fun flick, but a little too caught up in its own "quirkiness" to be a truly satisfying experience.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:50 a.m. CST

    Love McDonagh's writing, will definitely see this

    by Wanda Tinasky

    I had the fortune of seeing two of his plays produced on Broadway (including The Pillowman with Ivanek, Jeff Goldblum, and Billy Crudup) and fell in love with his style. The guy has wit and fearlessness and a genuine sense of feeling for the predicaments and bad decisions of his characters. After the strength of In Bruges, I'm glad he's got another movie out. Really looking forward to this.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 2:08 p.m. CST

    This film was brilliant, too bad The Kidd was too linear to get it.

    by kindofabigdeal

    I left my thoughts on his thread if anyone cares. I'm just glad that Capone gave this film a just review. It was a breathe of fresh air in an industry that wants to sell us shit like Hangover Goes Hawaiin or Taken 6.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 6:30 p.m. CST

    Just saw it

    by macheesmo3

    I loved it, and though there is a wee bit of muddling in the middle, overall I think it hangs well with In Bruges if not exceeds it. It really IS about writers block. But the way it's about it a damn fun ride. (I would expand, but it would be so easy to spoil so many of the little treats that i will just leave you with this: SEE IT!!)

  • The movie was kind of schizophrenic, but I think that was part of the story telling. A crazy movie told like a crazy person might tell it.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 9:28 p.m. CST

    Saw this on Monday

    by Liverstealer

    at Capone's Chicago screening. Fantastic film. Glad for a very original and well told story that wasn't a sequel, reboot or remake.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 9:31 p.m. CST

    Loved it.

    by BangoSkank

    There were only 8 people at our showing, and 3 of them got up and walked out... I spoke with the other couple who stuck around, and while they claimed they enjoyed it, they admitted they were expecting something more along the line of The Hangover. My wife and I fucking loved it, though.