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Seven Psychopaths: Sickly Hilarious

Kevin Noonan | Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It’s violent, messy, vulgar, gruesome and side-splittingly hilarious.
“Seven Psychopaths,” a dark, dark, dark (seriously, it’s dark) British comedy from the mind of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh released October 12, is without a doubt the funniest, if strangest, film of 2012 so far.
Colin Farrell stars as Marty Faranan, an alcoholic Irish screenwriter living in California and dealing with a bad case of writer’s block.
His oddball friend Billy Bickle, brought to life (not just played) by Sam Rockwell, is devoted to inspiring Marty to finish his current project, an anti-action thriller titled “Seven Psychopaths.”
Billy is an unemployed actor whose main source of income is kidnapping the dogs of the wealthy and returning them for a reward. His partner in crime is Hans, played by Christopher Walken.
The three run into trouble when Billy accidentally kidnaps the Shih Tzu belonging to Charlie Costello, played by Woody Harrelson, a gangster who kills just about anyone and everyone who gets in the way of getting his dog back.
The movie devolves into a sort of metaphysical tongue-in-cheek critique of the action movie genre, and then reverts to a shoot ’em up for the climax, the results of which are in line with the dark undercurrents of the script.
This is McDonagh’s second outing as screenwriter and director of a feature film, following 2008’s “In Bruges,” also starring Colin Farrell. He’s no amateur, though, as he’s spent most of his career as a fulltime playwright, and is considered one of Ireland’s most important living writers.
His trademark sharp, witty, introspective and, of course, dark style shines through in “Psychopaths,” especially in his characters, which are wonderfully and colorfully developed.
It may be just a little sloppier than “In Bruges,” and the ending may leave just a little to be desired, but McDonagh is a master of the art and it shows.
The film succeeds mainly on the strength of the performances of Farrell, Walken and above all Rockwell. Thankfully Farrell plays an Irish national, so audiences aren’t subjected to his infamously terrible American accent. He plays against type in this film, a subdued and observant writer instead of the more flamboyant character he’s used to. Walken also plays out of his normal comfort zone as well. In “Seven Psychopaths,” Walken is reflective and sentimental, straying away from what he’s done since the turn of the century.
The result is a fully-fledged enigma of a character, a religious man who mourns his dying wife and hides a violent and dangerous past.
The other characters are also well-portrayed, especially Tom Waits as an aging serial killer who just wants to find his former serial killer girlfriend, but all are peanuts compared to Rockwell’s Billy Bickle.
The dog kidnapper is Patrick Bateman minus the pretentiousness and suits, plus a wickedly on-point yet entirely unintentional sense of humor.
The first three-quarters of the film set an extremely high bar that the climax fails to hit, but closes out well enough to make it one of the best films of the year.
Contact Kevin Noonan at
knoonan2@nd.edu