Sunday, December 30, 2012

Seven Psychopaths

Given this movie, it seems proper that I start with a cliche and contrived introduction to my thoughts.

You ever wonder about pitching a movie like this? Writer/director Martin McDonaugh (In Bruges) probably has more leeway than I'm giving him credit for (maybe not, who knows), but I always remembered hearing in a producing class or a screenwriting course, that Hollywood executives loved being pitched a movie described as "A meets B." "Die Hard, but on a bus!" would be an example for something like Speed. So if I was to pitch Seven Psychopaths, I'd probably start with "it's like Quentin Tarantino trying to make Adaptation." 

I am cheating a bit here. When I was reading some reviews after this movie came out, many a writer claimed McDonagh's second film was heavily inspired by Tarantino. Certainly there are quirky characters engaging in hyperviolence and heavy dialogued discussions about a variety of matters with an occasional flashback or aside... but Tarantino would probably be the first to say that his own voice is in parts a hodge-podge of what inspired him artistically. Also, Seven Psychopaths is certainly as subversive as something like Adaptation, but there is a substantial twist. Jonze's second film was described as a movie within a movie, while this film here is more like a movie looking for a movie. When you combine that with the blood and eloquent swearing, you have... well you have this. 

To give a starting point, the film follows Marty (Colin Farrell) who is a sucessful screenwriter who just has a title for his next project. He wants to write a movie called "Seven Psychopaths" based on real people, stories about real people, fictional creations, etc. Marty lives with an actor/dog thief named Billy Bickle* (Sam Rockwell) who along with his dog thief partner-in-crime Hans (Christopher Walken), have stolen a Shih Tzu belonging to an unhinged mobster (Woody Harrelson). Things take off from there. How about another cliche line- you often hear that "you have to see something to understand it", well this time I really mean "you have to see something to understand it." 

It's not that Seven Psychopaths is overly complex, but there are so many nuances and layers to the story in such an untraditional and sometimes knowingly traditional manner that it really deserves a viewing and a personal discussion as opposed to me trying to even take a crack at explaining how fantastically intricate and well thought out the screenplay and execution are. The cast is probably going to make whatever year end list I end up compiling and the film is self-aware in a way that few films unapologetically are.

What does really get me at the end is the nicely framed, nicely edited, and nicely scored scene where Marty listens to a recording that Hans left him. Walken absolutely does an incredible job with the dialogue (hell, probably the best "Walken is actually acting" scene in a long time) where he talks about violence, a topic that the film is continuously commenting on. Beginning and endings, literal or otherwise, are certainly a part of this movie and how cyclical violence can be, much like life. It's an interesting companion piece to a film like Looper, but this is surprisingly much more sentimental. The best part is, the film sells the moment. It's a wild, harsh, and no-holds-barred movie and then there is an almost uplifting and affirming sense of closure at the end. It puts as nice of a bow on this kind of movie as one could, which is certainly saying a lot (and yes, a final cliche to close on).

*A character named Marty and another character named Bickle. Yep, that's a Taxi Driver reference. Sorry. I had to point that out.

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