Indie Roundup: ‘Seven Psychopaths’

Martin McDonagh’s directorial debut, “In Bruges” is such a strange, ungainly, hilarious movie that the film has turned into something of a cult favorite. For his sophomore effort “Seven Psychopaths,” McDonagh brings that same uneasy pairing of comedic violence with weighty philosophizing that marked his first movie, but this time he riffs on Hollywood.

[Related: Yahoo! Movies Giveaway: ‘Seven Psychopaths’ Prize Pack ]

The film centers on Martin (Colin Farrell), who is being a drunk, a flailing screenwriter, and an indifferent boyfriend , but he is not a psychopath. While hanging out and drinking excessively at one picturesque L.A. watering hole after another, he agonizes over his inability to come up with his next script, a project that has progressed only so far as the title — “Seven Psychopaths.”

His buddy Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) — a struggling actor whose career has been hampered by his tendency to beat up directors — loves the idea of Martin’s new script and offers to pitch in. We learn later how far he’s willing to help. The problem is that Martin can’t quite bring himself to make a straightforward action thriller. In fact, he muses about making a “Buddhist” thriller that starts bloody but ends with people talking through their differences, an idea that makes Billy sputter with disgust.

[Related: ‘Smashed’ director James Ponsoldt talks about ‘the drunk girl,’ John Cassavetes and ‘Jersey Shore’]

Of course, the movie that Martin is struggling to write is more or less the movie we end up seeing. The first part of “Seven Psychopaths” starts off as a wickedly funny Elmore Leonard-esque crime comedy that then morphs into an extended peyote-fueled rap session about peace and love in Joshua Tree National Park. And when the spectacular shootout arrives, as genre convention demands, it comes with ironic quotation marks around it. I ended up having the same qualms about this film as I had with “In Bruges”: The archly cartoonish characters were never quite able to bear the philosophical and emotional weight put on them during the latter half of the flick.

That said, McDonagh’s movie is packed with some gloriously weird yarns about some deeply deranged characters. There’s Charlie (Woody Harrelson) a dog-obsessed gangster who rains down Old Testament fury on anyone who might be connected to the kidnapping of his beloved Shih Tzu. The person responsible is Billy, along with his con-man business partner Hans (Christopher Walken). That’s two out of three psychopaths right there.

[Indie Roundup: Indie Roundup: ‘Wuthering Heights’ director Andrea Arnold talks about Emily Bronte, visceral filmmaking, and sheep poo]

But then there’s also Zachariah (played with creepy aplomb by Tom Waits), a rabbit-toting serial killer of serial killers. If you’ve ever laid awake at night wondering what happened to the Zodiac Killer, this movie offers an answer. And then there’s my favorite, the ex-Viet Cong soldier turned Catholic priest (or Buddhist monk — it makes sense in the movie) who is out to wage a one-man war against America. “Seven Psychopaths” might be a bizarre, messy movie so full of ideas that it never quite jells, but it’s also one of the funniest, most entertaining flicks I’ve seen this year.

Follow me on Twitter (@jonccrow)

The cast of ‘Seven Psychopaths’ talks to Yahoo! Movies:

‘Seven Psychopaths’ Insider Access

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