Seven Psychopaths. Directed by: Martin McDonagh (who also wrote it, thus becoming, I believe, an auteur--variously pronounced--a temptation to avoid and the only thing than which could be worser than is child molester and not much worser at that) Starring: Who doesn't it star? Colin Farrell; Christopher Walken; Sam Rockwell (fresh off his stint as the wheelchair ridden, avatarized space-Marine from the movie of the same name as); Woody Harrelson; coupla tight jeans, high cheekbones, pouty lips fee-male act-trices of the feminine gender who appear in the newspaper adds (and whose names if not whose contours I forget) but pretty much non-presences--aside from the obvious--in the evolving action; Flenser, the shih-tzu, trained--so they say--by Barbra Streisand, who treats us to one of her rare cameos as the flaking, sun-washed, used-to-be diner from the old days, yet not without charm.
Once again, Hollywood, not content to tell a plain old vanilla (the word of art is linear) story (that is, start at the beginning and end at the end), drags us on an odyssey (I say "odyssey" since in theory at least and maybe the protagonist--if not the audience--learns something en route) abrupted in time, disjointed, multiple ending-ed, and, to this reviewer, totally incomprehensible...as to what went on and for Pete's sake why. All these guys are terrific: Colin Farrell's dumb Mick of In Bruges; Christopher Walken's silky menace from The Rundown or anything else, notably Pulp fiction; Woody Harrelson's rogue cop in Rampart or demented zombie-slayer in Zombieland; Flenser the shih-tzu's recent turn as Iago in the Broadway production of Macbeth (or the other one if Iago's not in Macbeth). To leave them trying to make sense of a mishmash like this is to reach for the sun; alas, to read some of the reviews out there from the heavy-hitters, it is an aspiration nearly achieved. It may well be that the Lumpenproletariat, in the face of the artfully-disguised and foggily-impenetrable, suspects--as before a Pollock painting--that it had better appear non-plussed or else admit to Phillistinitude since everybody else appearing non-plussed and publicly so. That kind of instinct grégaire I can understand... without admiring it. Human enough. Onliest drawback is that even mitigated warmth in response to a thing like this gonna encourage more of same down the road. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be dished.
Time out of joint. Been done, and to some effect, I don't say no: Lucky Number Slevin, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (reviews attached...maybe), Rashomon. The play within a play, too: most notably in the disastrous Adaptation (review attached...maybe). Talking to the audience is as old as Terrence and Plautus, theatrical device. Shakespeare, too. And doesn't that boatman guy from Man for All Seasons cough it up straight to the spectators? Risky business at best and require real art... and the right vehicle. Likewise, black humor of the blood-splatter, stiff-a-minute type has had its day, starting, I suppose, in The Trouble with Harry and on through The Big Hit and to Grosse Pointe Blank. Yuck a minute cadaver giggles. Urf. Urf. This movie proposes to stir all these ingredients into the gruel, then serve up an overcooked, overheated dollop, but in a paper plate that soon soak through and leave the stuff to drip scalding onto our collective and communal lap. Ouch!
Sooooo... Colin Farrell (Marty), an inspiration-blocked (quelle noveltude!) screenwriter, labors at a production he has titled without yet text Seven Psychopaths. His chore now (lubricated liberally since we all know that both the Irishman and the artist swill the stuff and maybe if only us lunks swillt more of it, we wouldn't be such lunks, but that's another story) will be to conjure up the seven and work them into some sort of tapestry, the underside of which we are invited to contemplate for 90 dreary minutes. As luck would have it, a heptad of dementia (and seven of them at that!) presents itself in a series through a series of random encounters on his doorstep, starting with an Avenger (the Red Something-or-other, Psychopath #1, as spare funereal script on the screen announces so you don't miss it, you dummy) who guns down malefactors on to Psychopath #2 (Rockwell) and #3 (his bud, Walken) who steal exotic pooches only to return them to their distraught owners for reward and then to Psychopath #4 (Harrelson), some kind of bush-league don, violent and brutal yet tenderly-disposed toward his little Froufrou (or something), the shih-tzu. One guy is actually two psychopaths, economy that spares us yet another dispiriting characterization and perhaps yet another quite decent ac-toor nibbling on scenery. A fella can see right off a way to organize all this weirdness: friends of writer steal the dog from wrong owner, arouse wrath of truant, humorous chases, evasions, confrontations, outwittings and on and on, up credits. Sorry. Nothing that simple. We lard this thing with alternate endings, substories, parallel plots about one and then another clutch of avengers (small -a), inter-racial marriage, mistaken identity, flashbacks, flashovers, flashbys, and a long-rambling discursus on the cine-mah of violence and chaos-theory and what really happened to Amelia Earhart? As Marty sinks into dissipation and despondency, his characters usurp the plot, highjack his screenplay, divert the action along oblique lines, escalate the catastrophe (not sure you can do that since the one go up and the other down, but, hey...), all churning toward a big Walpurgisnacht and Hollywood resolution where--sorry to ruin it--everybody dies. You know that when writers kill off everybody, it's on account of they've hatched a circumstance they have no idea how to disentangle inside any sort of organic logic. Soooo...
After In Bruges, I'll forgive Colin Farrell for most anything. Still, I'm thinking: Get representation, buddy!