Saturday, November 3, 2012

Seven Psychopaths (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Seven Psychopaths 
First, a disclaimer: any film that features the musician Tom Waits as a whispering killer with a pet rabbit has my unabashed seal of approval. 
No, this isn't  Monty Python, but the story could well be included in the Python pantheon. 
This is playwright Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) latest film, "Seven Psychopaths", a film so zany, loose and colorful, that its pointed satire will sneak up on you and hold you hostage.
The initial scene depicts a killer (Michael Pitt) describing to his associate the best manner to shoot someone in the eye. Then, just as abruptly, he gets shot in the eye. I agree. You wouldn't think this humorous at all, but not since "A Fish Called Wanda", have I felt such jarring laughs.
"Seven Psychopaths" centers on a struggling writer (Colin Farrell) and his ultra violent, animal-cuddling friends.
Sam Rockwell plays Billy Bickle, whose name and role is a nod to "Taxi Driver" Travis Bickle: Billy even addresses a mirror at one point. Billy is hyperactive, bloodthirsty, and just wants to be loved.    He is an accomplice to the metaphysical  dog-napper Hans (Christopher Walken).
The dog-nappers make the unfortunate mistake of taking the Shih Tzu of a bejeweled vicious gangster named Charlie, played with obnoxiously silly menace by Woody Harrelson. Several histrionic episodes follow that remind one of a graphic novel if conceived by Eric Idle which lead to a demented domino effect, which in turn introduces us to a medley of manic characters that  outrun Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarantino combined, not least of which is Tom Waits as the smoky rabbit-toting vigilante of serial killers with a social consciousness.
"Seven Psychopaths" works so well because the story plays so fast and loose, allowing  its players to let go and say something to make us laugh. But in addition, it also addresses the pitfalls of pacifism in our aggressive world. The film is half Looney Toons and half Lao Tzu and it's all about saving a Shih Tzu.
Christopher Walken is terrific in his over-the-top performance as a withdrawn one time killer, who is spaced out on purpose here and deliberately lampoons his real-life effete yet carnivorous persona, making it a point to over-accentuate his speech. Walken has the unique ability to make the fact of wearing a simple cravat into an expression that is both Hitchcockian and poignant. Walken is a peyote-walker in a flannel suit. Having the ability to astrally travel like William Burroughs before him, he is both calm and chaotic at the same time.
No one character has exclusive screen time and the action unfolds as coolly and quickly as envisioned with Frank Sinatra's kaleidoscope. Some of the business is bloody, but the gore is leavened with those non-violent leaders of the past and we contemplate the cycle of blood-gush. Then the tables are turned and some might titter as in a Grand Guignol with Wile E. Coyote while others will see a cosmic joke.
We have to think that director McDonagh is poking fun at Oliver Stone  as well with Stone's reliance on a blood filled climax in several past films. 
The last bit of fun in "Seven Psychopaths" belongs to Tom Waits who puts down his machete and reverently pets his white rabbit as if it will lead him away to Wonderland or  to his lost vixen, the unapologetically bloody Maggie of Bathory. 
This film has a more than a bit of wistfulness to go along with its wiles and you will reflect as well as ripple with laughter.
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