The writer-director of In Bruges, the playwright turned filmmaker Martin McDonagh, sells out and makes his first Hollywood film, Seven Psychopaths, a commentary on selling out. Well, that and Hollywood's obsession with psychopaths. And his own.
True to title, it's about seven psychopaths and a screenwriter named Marty writing a movie about them.
But as a possibly psychopathic character tells the writer (played by Colin Farrell), "You're the one so fascinated by psychopaths. After a while they get tiresome, don't you think?"
Like generations of great talents "going Hollywood" before him, McDonagh takes his shot at having it both ways. He hired a quartet of the coolest character actors in the business and revels in the presence of Farrell, Chrisopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. He imitates and takes a blood-stained swipe at genre nerds such as Quentin Tarantino or Joe Carnahan, and their movie lover's style of bloody-minded movies. He has characters comment on situations and scenarios as they "rewrite" scenes, endings and shoot-outs for the screenplay Martin is sure will generate big box office.
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Psychopaths is profane, gruesome and hysterically over the top. The sheer pleasure of watching Walken work with his disciples, Harrelson and Rockwell (maniacally mannered here), and watching McDonagh's alter-ego, Farrell, in another McDonagh role worthy of his talents, is undeniable.
But after a while, even those pleasures wear thin.
Marty is blocked, at a loss for fleshing out his next script, which has only a title: Seven Psychopaths. His antic actor pal, Billy (Rockwell), tries to help, with tales of a Quaker stalker (Harry Dean Stanton) who follows the man who murdered his daughter into hell itself. A Buddhist psychopath? What would motivate him? And so on.
Billy and Hans (Walken) are running a little dognapping-for-reward-money scam so Hans can care for his terminally ill wife. And they've nabbed the wrong dog, a Shih Tzu beloved by mobster Charlie (Harrelson), who is willing to kill to get that dog back.
Walken gives his pop-eyed glare and his signature colorful line-readings and eccentric pronunciations to every scene — "halucin-O-gens." Farrell wears a pretentious swoopy L.A. screenwriter haircut and acts hurt every time somebody criticizes his script-in- progress. Abbie Cornish, Gabourey Sidibe and Olga Kurylenko just have glorified cameos. They're set décor.
As long as you remember that this is just a Smokin' Aces for the literary-minded, you'll be fine.