With his stage plays and the bracingly acerbic films he has made beginning with the Oscar-winning short film “Six Shooter,” writer-director Martin McDonagh is the bard of bile and blood. As his follow-up to the caustically funny “In Bruges,” McDonagh's “Seven Psychopaths” sculpts a more complicated and extremely satisfying interlocking narrative in which the storytellers — both McDonagh and star Colin Farrell's alcoholic screenwriter Marty — have casual relationships with telling the straight truth.
“Seven Psychopaths” is structured as a classic Hollywood meta-story: Marty (Farrell) is a bottle-to-bottle drunk, and both his mind and his Los Angeles are filled with homicidal nutcases, Mafioso, serial killers, hit men and women, and people who steal dogs for the reward money. As Marty drinks more and misses deadlines for his screenplay, also called “Seven Psychopaths,” his relationship with Kaya (Abbie Cornish) is crashing and burning, and his basket-case friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) is doing his best to stoke the flames. Billy also wants a piece of the screenwriting pie, feeding Marty stories and coming up with harebrained schemes to bring some real psychopaths into the story.
Meanwhile, Billy and his partner Marty (Christopher Walken) are pulling dogs off the street and then scanning telephone poles for fliers promising rewards. Eventually, they steal the wrong dog, a shih tzu owned by Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), a mobster with a daily body count. Charlie is turning the city upside down looking for the dognappers, which begins to interfere with Billy's cash flow and the line between Marty's fiction and his reality.
“Seven Psychopaths” introduces several storylines that intersect, veer off and morph as the film moves bloodily along, all told with the brutal profanity and fearless humor McDonagh brings to all his work. On a superficial level, “Seven Psychopaths” is an heir to the Quentin Tarantino style of multiple story arcs and a mounting death toll, but unlike many pretenders to the “Pulp Fiction” throne — Joe Carnahan's “Smokin' Aces” immediately comes to mind — McDonagh's work is more grounded in literary traditions rather than cinematic ones. Raymond Carver's Los Angeles is not far off from the one that McDonagh is visiting.
Starring: Collin Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, Sam Rockwell.
(Strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use)
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