Thursday, October 25, 2012
Not many people can make an original movie while copying other people’s styles. But Martin McDonagh manages to in SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. This picture is very Quentin Tarantinoesque with maybe a dash of Steve Martin. PULP FICTION meets L.A. STORY. Yet the viewpoints, weird plot turns, and characters all seem very much McDonagh’s own.
For those not familiar with Martin McDonagh, he’s an Irish playwright who has written some highly acclaimed and darkly bizarre plays including THE PILLOWMAN. He also won an Oscar in 2006 for his short film SIX SHOOTER and was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for IN BRUGES in 2006. So now a few of you are saying, “Oh, that guy” while most of you are saying “Okay, now I know.” With more movies like SEVEN PSYCOPATHS and maybe eight more nomination, everyone is going to know who he is soon enough.
No SPOILER ALERT because I won’t tell you anything that happens, but let me fill you in on some of the characters to give you an idea of what you’re in for.
It’s set in Hollywood so naturally it features a struggling screenwriter and hit men. Colin Farrell is the scribe so you know right away his genre is not Nancy Meyer films. His best friend is an out-of-work actor (no Hollywood-based movie would be without one of those either)/loose cannon played by Sam Rockwell. They’re great together. Bert & Ernie with violence.
And then there’s my buddy, Woody Harrelson as the scary mob boss. There’s always something so likable about Woody. As I watched him on the screen I thought, “Y’know, I bet we could’ve gotten away with having him kill people on CHEERS.”
Throw Tom Waits and few other crazies into the stew and you’ve got a rollicking good film. There are very few women in the movie but that issue is addressed.
In true Tarantino style there are flashes of graphic violence. And several storylines dovetail and connect. I think at one point or another every character in the film is pointing a gun at every other character in the film. The movie is a tad long (perhaps McDonah would have been better served making SIX PSYCHOPATHS) but it moves along at a decent clip and is very very FUNNY.
And here’s why every fledgling comedy writer should see it: For all the laughs in the film – BIG laughs – there are no jokes. Not a one. The laughs all come out of character and attitude. The laughs are all super specific to who those people are. No line is interchangeable. Also, every line is delivered straight. Nobody knows they’re saying something amusing. No one is trying to say something amusing. It’s just who they are and what they think in the reality of the world they exist in. Compare that to forced comic set pieces with endless unmotivated pratfalls and tired punchlines.
And comedy lesson number two: Laughs come from reactions. And Colin Farrell gets a whole bunch without saying a word. There are so many more tools at the comedy writer’s disposal than just the word vagina and someone vomiting into a tuba.
Warning: there are moments of gore and the dialogue can get raw. The C-bomb is dropped maybe five minutes in. But SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS is worth a look. It’s a fun ride. The only thing I would say though is that not everybody in LA carries a gun. Everyone does have a screenplay but a few are unarmed.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM