Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seven Psychopaths - 2012

"Seven Psychopaths" - 2012
Dir. by Martin McDonagh - 1 hr. 50 min.

Official Red Band Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Boy, I wanted this to be a good movie.  I really, really did.  I wanted it to be everything that was promised in the trailer and more, but "Seven Psychopaths" simply doesn't deliver what it promises.  What's actually present in the film is sometimes very good, but is very uneven, and by the time things pick up, it was nearly too late to rescue.

"Seven Psychopaths" is one of those movies about writing a movie.  A creatively-blocked screenwriter, Marty (Colin Farrell), has little more than a title (the title of this film, in fact) and deep affinity for alcohol.  His friends bug him about it, his agent is leaving messages trying to urge Marty along with his process, but to little avail.  A number of threads converge later, but the important ones to note are that Marty's friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken) run a scam where they kidnap dogs and then return them for whatever reward money is put up a few days later.  One of the dogs that gets snagged belongs to Charlie (Woody Harrelson), who is a local mobster who loves his dog more than he loves his girlfriend.  Like I said, there are a lot of seemingly disparate threads that eventually converge here.

There are two big problems that I have about this movie.  First is that I didn't know that this was a movie about writing a movie.  That's not to say that writer movies are something that I won't go see ("Barton Fink" is a spectacular example of a writer movie), but I don't remember seeing anything about that in any of the advertisements.  Going in, I expected a couple of hours of crazy people going at cross-purposes, frequently with guns involved, and instead a lot of this film is about an alcoholic writer struggling to get his next screenplay written.  And he's not really under that much pressure - the only real pressures seem to be that his next project is a little overdue, and that his drinking is affecting his relationship with his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish).  Eventually, Marty gets dragged into the repercussions of Billy and Hans' scheming, but on his own, he just seems to be a drink or two past his deadline.

The other big problem that I had was the the first half of this film was just not very good.  Everything up until Sam Rockwell's sort-of monologue in the desert, I was pretty disinterested in the entire package.  Sure, things happen and characters are introduced, but I just didn't find myself drawn into the story at all.  The second half of the film pretty much becomes Sam Rockwell's show (and the movie is drastically improved for it), and it becomes apparent that not only is he worth paying to see act in a movie, but that Woody Harrelson didn't have much to play off of until he's on-screen with Rockwell.  So at least "Seven Psychopaths" has a solid third act, but that doesn't make up for the first half or so.  I mean, I was so bored that I didn't even realized how bored I was until Rockwell started being completely awesome and I stirred from my boredom-induced stupor.

This is a throwback of sorts (if it's soon enough to start throwing back) to 90's Miramax indie-ensemble movies.  You've got your crime plot, the criminals who do a lot (and I mean a LOT) of vaguely-Tarantino-esque jabbering, moments of extreme violence, and a bunch of weirdo actors working cheaply.  On top of the people that I've already mentioned, "Seven Psychopaths" also has roles for Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton, Kevin Corrigan, and Gabourey Sidibe.  If you don't know these names, you'll certainly recognize their faces.  I have some nostalgia for that period of indie film-making, and it's fun to see the sort of films that an $8 million budget used to be able to buy you during the 1990s.  But the first half was so laggy, and the concept so falsely-advertised, and the amount of Christopher Walken weirdness just wasn't enough to go around that the good third act didn't so much redeem the film as it simply provided relief that "Seven Psychopaths" didn't underachieve from wire-to-wire.

1.5 / 5 - Theatre

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