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Review: Method to the Madness (Seven Psychopaths)


Stories are odd things. They take on personalities of their own, they leave loose ends, they make profound connections. Screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) is not writing one of those stories. Even with the prompting of his best friend (Sam Rockwell) writer's block has kept his slate empty. With his slate empty, he's taken to the bottle and arguing with his girlfriend.

Fortunately, reality always proves to be more appealing than fiction and with a masked murderer gunning down made men in the streets of Los Angeles, this string of murders prove to be just the inspiration that Marty needs. His screenplay featuring a murderous Amish man, a very angry Vietnamese priest and a serial killing couple who only kill serial killers practically writes itself.

Billy and Hans (beloved oddball Christopher Walken) have found their own way to make a living. By stealing dogs and then returning them back for reward money, Billy and Hans have quite a sweet gig. The only problem with all of this is that they made a huge gaffe in taking a dog belonging to resident psychopath, Christopher Costello (Woody Harrelson). You see Mr. Costello loves his dog a great deal and he has absolutely no qualms about killing anyone and everyone who is keeping him from that reunion.

Eventually, it's not just Billy and Hans that come into the fold of Costello's path of rage. Marty has a target on his back as well.

Much like Brendan Gleeson did with Martin McDonagh's first feature In Bruges, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken completely steal the show from the rest of the eclectic cast. Colin Farrell stands in for McDonagh as a Hollywood scribe trying to piece the events together as the audience is so he has to be semi-relatable, but Rockwell and Walken have no such reservations. They are the jacks in the box of Seven Psychopaths creating a sense of chaos throughout the proceedings. The self-seriousness of these revenge films often lends to a desensitizing tone whenever a character is killed, but the interludes of comedic insanity make each loss felt with a thud.

Seven Psychopaths on the surface looks like a typical shoot-em-up film in the vein of Snatch, Pulp Fiction and the like, but when the guns are drawn the film takes a turn down a less-traveled road. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie often use violence to conclude their films, but McDonagh emphasizes its use as a continuous cycle. He aims for more with a type of film that all to often ends with a shootout to end a story.

An all too rare originality flavored with the dialogue that Martin McDonagh is very quickly becoming known for, Seven Psychopaths is yet another surprise in a year filled with great genre releases.

***/****

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