Review by Gordon Justesen
Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie
Cornish, Olga Kurylenko
Director: Martin McDonagh
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: January 29, 2013
“I like it. It’s got LAYERS.”
There seems to be a certain trend with the films of writer/director Martin McDonagh, and I don’t believe it’s intentional. The trailers for his movies turn out to be heavily mis-marketed, but the movies themselves end up being nothing short of bloody fantastic. That was the case with 2008’s In Bruges and that is most definitely the case with McDonagh’s follow up, the brilliantly original Seven Psychopaths.
The film’s trailer pretty much sold it as a dark comedy centering on a group of lowlifes who specialized in dog kidnappings, and whose latest victim belong to a violent crime boss. It should be noted that in the actual film, this is only a minor subplot. Seven Psychopaths is so much more than what the ads made it out to be, and is also one of the films 2012 is to be remembered for.
I’ve become constantly weary of films and series that rely a little too heavy on being way to referential…or “meta”. A good example is the TV show Community, which I started out loving. But by its second season, the show was going out of its way to show off how clever it was being and I was eventually turned off.
This film manages execute the “meta” approach at the utmost perfect level (right from its “eye-popping” opening scene), and does so in a remarkably subtle fashion. The fact that the film is able to do that while already successfully executing a bizarre balance of comedy and in your face violence is something of a rare accomplishment. That’s basically what every Pulp Fiction knockoff in the late 90s was attempting to do, and more or less failing at every time out.
Marty (Colin Farrell) is an Irish screenwriter living in L.A. who’s desperately trying to piece together his what he hopes will be his breakout screenplay. The only thing he has is a title, “Seven Psychopaths”. He intends this to be entirely different from your typical average Hollywood psychopathic killer portrait.
But Marty has two problems; he likes to drink a little too much and can’t seem to come up with seven memorable characters to acquire the film’s title. Luckily for him, he has friends in low places…most notably, Billy (Sam Rockwell), who specializes in dog kidnappings. Having dealt with his share of oddballs in his profession, Billy is all too happy to throw out suggestions to Marty for his script.
A good many of Billy’s suggestions are direct result of his dog kidnapping partner, Hans (Christopher Walken). Their profession mainly consists of spotting dog walkers in the park, napping the dogs and eventually collecting the reward money when delivering them back. But it just so happens that their latest victim, a Shih Tzu, belongs to a violent underworld criminal type named Charlie (Woody Harrelson) who is ready kill any and everyone until he and his dog are reunited.
Eventually, Marty is dragged into the mix as he, Billy and Hans are soon on the run, along with their Shih Tzu. They end up fleeing out to Joshua Tree for a hideout spot. And as they wait for the inevitable confrontation with the dog’s rightful owner, the three basically end up discussing Marty’s screenplay, in particular how their eventual violent confrontation with Charlie could serve as a grand final shootout in Marty’s movie (which we see unfold in a way I won’t dare spoil for you, and you won’t soon forget!).
Not only Martin McDonagh avoid the sophomore slump, but he pulled off the impossible in that he made a film I ended up loving a little bit more than In Bruges, and trust me…that’s saying a lot! He’s created a film that has got so much going on, especially with the “movie within a movie” scenario that at times you can’t believe so much came from the mind of one filmmaker. In fact, this might just be the best movie I’ve seen dealing with a movie within a movie, meaning Get Shorty will have to surrender the throne!
And what a first rate cast we have. As a longtime fan of Colin Farrell, I can easily say that he’s done his best work when collaborating with McDonagh, and he’s pretty damn perfect as a surrogate for not only the filmmaker himself (McDonagh is from Ireland too) but for the audiences as well. And though I thought I was over Sam Rockwell’s overly comical/deranged persona, he manages to deliver a scene-stealing turn as a major whacko, as does Woody Harrelson as much more psychopathic whacko. And as for the iconic Christopher Walken, I think I’m about to make an unexpected and controversial statement when saying that this might be his finest role yet…for you simply have to see it!
Seven Psychopaths was just the film I was hungry for in year when I thought too many movies played it safe, were too soft and didn’t take any chances. Just like quote I used to open the review, when a character is referring to a proposed act in Marty’s screenplay, this film has truly got layers…all of them incredibly riveting! One of the very best films of 2012!
The film carries a most engaging look to it, a bright color palette that truly mirrors the sun baked Hollywood setting, and that results in a tremendous looking Blu-ray courtesy of Sony. Image detail is purely mind-blowing in the 1080p, and colors are at a top-notch quality, particularly that of the color red which you will certainly see a lot of. The film is an accomplishment of visual style, and this Blu-ray presentation truly enhances that quality!
The driving force of this film is dialogue, but it does have other areas that tremendously benefit from a nice 5.1 DTS HD mix! The sudden bursts of violence sound all the more shocking courtesy of the lossless audio. There’s also a lively little soundtrack to boot, and the balance between those three elements is superbly seamless. Background sounds are also better captured than you’d normally expect!
Not a whole lot to go around, unfortunately, and all of what’s provided is a bit too brief. Included are the featurettes “Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths”, “Colin Farrell is Marty”, “Woody Harrelson is Charlie” and “Crazy Locations”. There’s also “Layers”, which is a minute long collection of clips from the movie, and rounding out the extras is a clever and quite hilarious spoof trailer entitled “Seven Psychocats”.
Seven Psychopaths can best be summed up as some the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in quite some time. It’s a riveting and intensely blood soaked comical tale…with a twist or three. What a movie!!!!