Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — Looking back on the amount of time I’ve dedicated to escaping the world for the embrace of quirky comedy, one element most things hilarious have attempted to tame is insanity. Whether there is a nonsensical mix of plots like a bank robber settling down with a cop romance ala “Raising Arizona”, a character who should be institutionalized like “Ace Ventura” or even a mix of both, the best of them always find a way not to let the crazy overwhelm every other element to create nothing less than a cult classic.
Today’s subject somehow stumbles into being another example of what could have been too bizarre to handle mentally and instead finds a balance of laughs and disturbing circumstances. In fact, I am also not far from bowing down as it miraculously finds a way to cram in what may have been too much to follow for a trilogy into a bit less than two hours with something that moves with manic genius. “Seven Psychopaths” escapes the murder for the heck of it cliché of those like Quentin Tarantino, and mixes in a resolution you may need more time to digest, but is fulfilling entertainment when the last drop of blood is spilled.
The film focuses on a drunken shell of a writer named Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell), who can’t seem to find enough inspiration to finish writing a screenplay with the same name as this flick. The best hope for this a not so successful actor friend, Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), who when not giving advice for a film about seven murderers, runs a dog kidnapping scam with oddball sidekick Hans Kieslowski (Christopher Walken).
Meanwhile, a series of real world homicides seems to start popping up to complicate the writing quest as well as other unfortunate side effects of associating with Bickle, namely when he kidnaps the furry companion of a mentally unstable mobster named Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson). Before Marty can even begin to think about sobering up, he quickly finds the most challenging thing is making it alive to the next day and an increasing comedy of errors that somehow ties it all together. Perhaps the most admirable trait of this film how well so many characters have such well-developed backgrounds and manage to tell such an engaging story.
I cannot name many cinematic works where I can so clearly distinguish so many characters in a single experience be it Costello’s ability to be so terrifying and freshly goofy or one of the inspired killers, Zachariah Rigby (Tom Waits), delivering such witty punch lines while carrying an air of a James Bond Villain. Just when you think you might start to drift away from what you are witnessing, it is with little effort that some off the wall action pulls you back in and curious to see where the heck it will all end.
While the content includes a never ending list of reasons no one under adult age needs to watch this, even with all the violence and language, I don’t feel overwhelmed in a lowbrow way. If anything, I may just watch it again or pick up a bargain copy one day just to try and process what I didn’t catch the first time. After a lot of thought where I unfortunately did not get to wear a straightjacket, I’d say “Seven Psychopaths” deserves three and a half out of five bullets.
DVD rental courtesy of Family Video of Pauls Valley.