Showing up to a movie screening seconds before it starts is never a good idea and that's exactly what I did for Seven Psychopaths. I didn't know I was going to a screening of it and actually thought I was sitting down for a screening of the Ben Affleck movie, Argo, which was playing next door. (I went into the wrong theater.) The opening scene of Seven Psychopaths involves a very Tarantino-esque scene of two hitmen standing around talking about a recent murder in a very funny way. After a few minutes and a couple chuckles something gruesome happens and the opening credits roll. Argo is getting lots of serious Oscar buzz and the scene I just watched was goofy, graphic and set in a world that didn't feel real at all; so it's easy to say that I realized it wan't Argo before the title for Seven Psychopaths even rolled.
Martin McDonagh has only written and directed one other movie and it was called In Bruges with Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter series, 28 Days Later) and Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter series, Schindler's List). Most people didn't see this in the theater but by word-of-mouth it became a cult classic after its release. It's of the same vein in that it's about brutal killers who exist in a surreal world that navagate through some very funny scenes. Seven Psychopaths is just as enjoyable and shows McDonagh's progression as a filmmaker.
The titular characters are played by Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2, Moon) among a few others. This ensemble cast is fantastic and some of the best performances these guys have done in a while. Walken and Rockwell especially shine brighter than they have in years. Rockwell is one of the most gifted actors working today and deserves to be elevated to A-list pronto! He wields comedy and drama chops better than anyone else I can think of. What's fun about Seven Psychopaths is that it allows him to showcase both in the same film, something that's rare to see. One scene in particular allows him to deliver a monologue that had the audience cheering at the end of it because it was so funny.
I think one of the most enjoyable aspects about Seven Psychopaths is its self awareness. Lots of movies like to lampoon Hollywood and turn a mirror on the silliness that dwells within it, but McDonagh does it in a way that is disorienting, hilarious and shocking. It is as close to sitting in a room with him, hearing him read the script aloud to you, complete with his uncertainty and insecurities about the plot, before he shoots a single frame. It's a very unique movie-going expierence and some may not enjoy it.
Another reason someone may not enjoy this as much as I did is because of the violence. This is a brutally graphic film and most of it is done with the agenda to shock and make you laugh. It succeeds 75% of the time. That's par for the course for a McDonagh film. He makes crime comedies that also have stark moments of drama. The transition between them are never smooth and feel like you got slammed in a traffic accident at times. But as long as you get through the blunt transitions, the meat of each scene is almost always done with earnest and commitment.
Seven Psychopaths isn't a movie for everyone and I expect it not find box office success. However, just like with In Bruges, I expect this to go on to gain a cult status as well and it feels good to get on that band wagon before it gets too crowded. Sorry Argo, but I'm glad I missed ya.
Seven Psychopaths (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+