October 12, 2012 in Features

‘Psychopaths’ hits winning number

Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune
 

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 its 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 (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, Christopher 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 movie. He has characters comment on situations and scenarios as they “rewrite” scenes, endings and shootouts for the screenplay Martin is sure will be 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 only has 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 (Vietnamese) psychopath? What would motivate him? And so on.

Walken gives his pop-eyed glare and his patented 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. No, the onscreen Marty and off-camera Martin (McDonagh) can’t write a realistic female to save their lives. So Abbie Cornish, Gabourey Sidibe and Olga Kurylenko just have glorified cameos. They’re set decor, place-holders to give us a break between the next funny-violent tour de force/tour de profanity moment involving the leads.

But as long as you remember that this is just a “Smokin’ Aces” for the literary-minded, you’ll be fine.


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