‘Seven Psychopaths’

. . .

Is it worth $10? Yes

Of the numerous ways people are killed in “Seven Psychopaths,” it’s important to remember that much of it happens because of a dog. An exceptionally cute shih tzu that has its own Facebook page, to be exact, but a dog nonetheless. Surely people have died for lesser reasons, but what this does is cast a sense of triviality over the story. None of this NEEDS to be happening, we feel, and if it doesn’t need to be happening, then why are we watching?

Because it’s darn entertaining, that’s why.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh’s (“In Bruges”) film isn’t nearly as smart or clever as it thinks it is, but it remains an entertaining, pulpy yarn that has some genuine surprises.

At the center of the story are alcoholic screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) and his dog-kidnapping friend Billy (Sam Rockwell, typically unhinged and very funny). Marty is struggling to start a screenplay he’s calling “Seven Psychopaths.” Billy works with partner Hans (Christopher Walken) to kidnap wealthy people’s dogs then return them a few days later to collect the reward money.

Billy and Hans get themselves into trouble when they dognap Bonny, a shih tzu owned by a gangster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson). Meanwhile, the story takes random detours to showcase each of the seven psychopaths of the title, some of whom are crazy beyond belief, while others take you by surprise.

The movie has a self-awareness that doesn’t always work, specifically because the “Seven Psychopaths” screenplay Marty is writing doesn’t always mesh with the “Seven Psychopaths” movie we’re watching. For a long time we’re left to wonder what psychopaths No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 have to do with anything, only to have them tied together in an ending that’s too far-fetched to be believed.

And that’s the big rub: The movie thinks it’s brilliant in a meta mind-trip sort of way, but it’s really only a lush ppcr piece of flashy entertainment. For example, there are numerous attempts to tie characters reflecting about the past into real

MTi historical events, such as the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam in 1968. But why? The rest of the story isn’t grounded in reality, so there’s no point in having a real-world connection. Doing so suggests the film should be taken with a level of seriousness, but that’s basically impossible when the rest of it is so comic book silly.

“Seven Psychopaths” is a strange picture with some crazy ideas, some of which are intriguing while others are just plain weird. If McDonagh is trying to make a social comment about the futility of violence or something similar, he failed to capture the proper tone that would allow that to be communicated. Still, his dialog is witty and clever, which leads to some funny exchanges and moments of violence that keep you on your toes (including the greatest head explosion you’ll ever see).

Far too often we criticize movies for not trying to do more. McDonagh tried to do too much and misfired. There are worse things you could say. ¦

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2012-10-18 digital edition

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