Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
In 2008, Martin McDonagh earned an Oscar nomination for his first full-length screenplay, the quirky mob film “In Bruges.” Expect to see him earn nomination number two for “Seven Psychopaths.”
While waiting to pull off a “hit,” two men are suddenly shot dead. Placed on their bodies is a single playing card – the Jack of Diamonds. This opening sequence begins the tale of what is surely the best quirky crime drama since “The Usual Suspects.”
A thriller interspliced with an uncanny insider look at Hollywood, “Seven Psychopaths” is the story of a story, one being written by Marty (Farrell), an Irish screenwriter whose dependence on the bottle has just cost him his girlfriend. Marty is constantly asking his friend Billy (Rockwell), about his career as a dog thief or, as Marty calls himself, a “dog borrower.” Marty tails wealthy dog owners out with their dogs, kidnaps them and, when the eventual WANTED poster offering a cash reward turns up, his partner Hans (Walken, still at the top of his game at age 69) returns the dog, having just recently “found” it. Billy shares some stories with Marty, who has only gotten as far as the title of his new script: “Seven Psychopaths.” Along the way we meet some of the best written characters in recent years: the man who used to travel the country with his girlfriend, tracking down and murdering murderers (“we were serial killer killers”), the vengeful father (Harry Dean Stanton) of a murdered daughter and a crazy crime boss (Woody Harrelson), whose Shih Tzu, Bonny, Billy has made the mistake of stealing. As these stories, and others, intertwine, you are taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
The film is full of great performances but I must make the following clear:
IF SAM ROCKWELL IS NOT NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR I WILL SEND WOODY HARRELSON TO VISIT THE ACADEMY!
Rockwell gives a bravura performance here, creating a character who lives and breathes on many levels. In what could have been an over-the-top, one note performance Rockwell gives Billy a heart and, more importantly, a soul. You shouldn’t care about him but you can’t help yourself. And a special nod to Bonny, the shih tzu, who I predict will shortly become this year’s Uggie, the canine star of “The Artist.”
The script is packed with inside Hollywood references, with the comments often reflecting the film itself. The action is fast paced and the over-the-top violence is brought to life courtesy of KNB EFX Group partners Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. McDonagh’s direction is sharp and the outdoor visuals are brought to life by cinematographer Ben Davis.