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.
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.