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Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Cover art:

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Seven Psychopaths (2012)Starring Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Woody Harrelson

Directed by Martin McDonagh


The Midnight Madness programme at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival had its most talked-about and popular film premiere to date when the star-studded A-list cast came for the opening of director’s Martin McDonagh’s manic, neo-noir meta comedy follow-up to In Bruges.

No stranger to showing off his comedic capabilities, Colin Farrell gracefully takes the back seat by playing the straight man as he takes on the role of Marty Faranan, a hopeful screenwriter who falls folly to the most common stereotypes of aspiring writers through heavy boozing and stealing ideas for his non-existent script he titled Seven Psychopaths.

Struggling to keep his relationship afloat with his impatient girlfriend (Abbie Cornish), who has grown tired of his self-deprecating antics and avoiding giving credit for his best ideas to his goofy best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), a belligerent actor who simply just wants to help Marty write his script, Marty’s personal life and writing aspirations quickly start falling apart.

Unbeknownst to Marty, his buddy Billy also moonlights as a conman with his loyal partner, Hans (an outstanding performance by Christopher Walken), as they make money by kidnapping dogs, only to claim the reward money and giving all of it to Hans’ ill wife in the hospital as she recovers from a winning battle with cancer.

Things take a turn for the worst, however, when the ungainly duo steal a Shih Tzu which just happens to belong to the sadistic and hot-tempered Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), who’s hell-bent on killing anyone (and anyone close to them) associated with the dog-napping.

Unfortunately, Billy and Hans get Marty pulled into the mess, and as the three are on the run from the gangster and his goons, Marty soon discovers that some of the psychopathic characters from his working screenplay are not in fact works of fiction and that his greatest muse to finish the script will be from the insane events that follow—that is, if he gets to live through it. Splattered brain matter, quirky dialogue, and the goriest and most parodied shootout in the history of film ensue.

In the spirit of Shane Black and even screenwriter Kevin Williamson, Seven Psychopaths is a clever, self-referential take on Hollywood and the screenwriting process that is able to poke fun at the violence, sexism, and stereotypes in mainstream action and horror films in an extremely entertaining, metatexual way.

To give away any of the identities of the actual “seven psychopaths” would surely do future viewers a great disservice as one of the film’s greatest strengths is through its reveals of the characters in stylized “movie-within-a-movie” sequences that made the opening premiere crowd cheer with excitement.

McDonagh’s sophomore directorial effort is a punchy, intelligent, and super vehement film full of vigor and stand-out and uproarious performances that will surely make fans of In Bruges proud.

4 1/2 out of 5

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Serena Whitney