A little from Kaufman, a little from Tarantino

16 10 2012

By Kleinz 57

I briefly considered drafting a review of what my review of this movie would be like. Yes, a review of a review. It would have juicy deets on half-baked analyses or maybe a pool of potential wiener jokes from which to mine comedic gold. It might even give the URL of the bad pun generator I frequent. Alas, a rambling diatribe on a lacking creative process would be tough to write, let alone thrust upon suffering readers — that’s even as “meta” media seems to be in vogue more than ever these days. Even so, a review on my review might have still made more sense than the first hour of Seven Psychopaths. 

Imagine writing a screenplay. Wait. Don’t. Because Director Martin McDonagh does all the imaginatizin’ for you. Colin Farrell stars as Los Angeles screenwriter Marty — a character whose name is absolutely there to remind you of the director — who’s struggling to develop his latest script coincidentally titled… “Seven Psychopaths.” If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s weirdly superb (or superbly weird) Adaptation., then a film about the creation of itself won’t sound all that bat shit insane. Actually, I should really mind my psychological diagnoses here, because McDonagh raises his self-referential dissection of guns and guts and film and butts to some strange heights, and some of those heights do plenty to question who’s really sane here. Of course, Marty’s psychotic bestie Sam Rockwell might make more than a few questionable life choices, as does Christopher Walken’s aging miscreant, who steals dogs only to sell them back to their owners for a finder’s fee. But what do these relationships say about Marty himself? After all, he’s hanging out with these weirdos, later writing a movie influenced by them. As a matter of fact, your own ticket went to furthering Hollywood’s obsession with gore and violence. What’s wrong with you, audience?!

So maybe Seven Psychopaths isn’t that explicit, and its script — which McDonagh also wrote — deserves credit for committing to very warped, sometimes jumbled introspection. The first half plays like a half-baked meditation on over stylized splatter and Olga Kurylenko in lingerie, especially since Marty’s ‘screenplay psychopaths’ overlap with the actual film’s maniacs. Upon further reflection (because this is one of those), McDonagh was likely attempting to bring us inside Marty’s own messy creative writing process at its inception, or some bullshit like that, but it’s a definite weakness, as is Tom Waits’ presence as a bunny-coddling, former serial murderer of serial murderers (see what I mean?). At best, Waits’ story is a commentary on tragic highs and lows of romance, but it’s an arc that might’ve better served an already solid Walken performance even more. Now will someone please escort Mr. Waits back to his bedpan? Woody Harrelson is magnetic and hammy as a testy mobster whose shih tzu goes missing, but Rockwell is the real standout here, doling out insanity and transcendence in equal measure. Like a suicidal Vietnamese monk. And yeah, that’s a thing, too.

CBS Films was screwed either way on marketing this sumbitch: do you prop up the loony ensemble cast of character actors? Or risk promoting at face value a deep, clever meditation on violence and crime in pop entertainment? CBS smartly hedged their bets, advertising McDonagh’s followup to In Bruges as a 21st century boogery cousin to Pulp Fiction’s blunt violence and cultural meditations. And it is, until it sprouts legs of its own and really gets a’hobbling. Psychopaths likely won’t fare well at Ye Olde Boxe Orifice, but when your story amounts to a two-hour MC Escher mind fuck… honestly.

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