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‘Seven Psychopaths:’ Advance Film Review


7 PsychopathsEach year, approximately 100,000 people of all ages move to Los Angeles to try and break into acting.  Every single one of them, regardless of gender, should aspire to being as great at their craft as Sam Rockwell is.

Sadly, the majority of the aspiring “actors” are as delusional as Tobias Funke, their patron saint  Their real goal is fame and not art, and I would gladly wager most of them have no idea who Sam Rockwell even is.  Irony is such a b—h sometimes.

Those of us who self-identify as film geeks know Sam Rockwell very well.  Like Joel Edgerton or Gary Cole, Sam Rockwell is one of those great actors who may not be a household name but nevertheless always elevates the material he’s playing.  Actors as good as Sam Rockwell can even rise above clunky material like Iron Man 2 or Cowboys and Aliens.  Luckily for us, he’s been given a choice, new showcase.

Seven Psychopaths is the great, new film from the renowned Irish playwright Martin McDonagh.  McDonagh is the writer of plays like The Cripple of Inishman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of seeing a Los Angeles production of Inishmore at the Mark Taper Forum with Chris Pine in the lead role.  It was one of the great experiences I’ve had with live theater.  When asked about it later, I described it to people as an Irish Quentin Tarantino writing a play that satirizes the Irish Republican Army.  It was equal doses of blood and dark comedy.

McDonagh also wrote and directed the awesome, but little seen, gem In Bruges which starred Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as hitmen in Belgium.  If you haven’t seen In Bruges, you should; it’s also highly recommended.

Seven Psychopaths follows in that vein with some graphic shooting and stabbing to go along with some great ghoulish laughs.  For this project, McDonagh also throws in some nice barbs at the movie industry, always a gigantic target.

Colin Farrell reunites with McDonagh to play Marty, a blocked Hollywood screenwriter trying to complete his next script.  Marty drinks too much and he has no real story idea, but he has a great title:  Seven Psychopaths.  Marty’s best friend is a flailing actor named Billy (the aforementioned Mr. Rockwell).  Billy doesn’t get much work as an actor, because he does things like punch casting directors during auditions.  

To make extra money, Billy has teamed up with Hans (national treasure Christopher Walken) to run a dog kidnapping ring.  They kidnap people’s dogs and then return the canines for reward money.  This seems like a mostly victimless crime until they swipe the pooch of mid-level mob guy Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson).  Charlie is conveniently both rage-filled and violent.

Add into all this the Jack ‘O Hearts killer, a masked serial killer who preys solely on mid to upper-level members of organized crime.   Soon, the victimless crime ring is amassing a pretty impressive body county.

McDonah has assembled a ridiculously excellent cast, and he has given them all great roles to play.   I’ve always been a big Colin Farrell fan (even after he played Bullseye), and he mostly grounds the film by playing straight man to some of the stranger characters.  In his later years, Walken has been reduced to clowning in a lot of sub-par comedies, but he’s given a great role here, probably his best since Catch Me If You Can.  Not only is Walken funny, he’ll also break your heart and effortlessly suggest that Hans is a guy not to be trifled with.

In recent years, Woody Harrelson has played a lot of characters both serious and comic with anger issues.  Whether it’s something silly like Zombieland or deadly dramatic like Rampart, lovable Cheers Woody has long been abandoned.  Here, he channels proper rage into a genuinely funny piece of work.

Sam Rockwell rounds out the cast as the loopiest of the seven titular psychos.  He is genuinely hilarious but never threatens to take over the movie.  There’s a lengthy segment in the film’s final third where Farrell, Walken, and Rockwell are doing a kind of walkabout at Joshua Tree.  These scenes are simply actors sitting around talking to each other and they are thrilling.  If you’re a fan of great screen acting, it’s a blast.

The cast is also littered with great character actors in small but essential roles.  Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe is on hand for a scene as a dog walker, and Zeljko Ivanek appears as one of Harrelson’s henchmen.  There are also fun meta cameos by Boardwalk Empire vets Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg as hit men.  And, singer Tom Waits is fun in a small role.

The picture is also nicely self-referential as the characters’ experiences are informing the script Farrell is writing.  I very much liked the film’s puzzly, Russian doll structure.

Summer movies are fun, but the fall is my favorite movie time of year as more adult, sophisticated pictures arrive.   Seven Psychopaths isn’t for kids, and it’s all the better for it.




Chris Spicer, Fanbase Press Contributor



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