Posts Tagged ‘woody harrelson’

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – Francis Lawrence (Dir.), Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Jeffery Wright, Jenna Malone, Amanda Plummer, Elizabeth “Mutherfucking” Banks, Stanley “Boss-Ass Mutherfuckin’ President of the Universe” Tucci and Toby “Meh” Jones

Have you ever been so angry that a bird has popped out of your boob?

Have you ever been so angry that a bird has popped out of your boob?

DISCLAIMER: There will be frequent, flagrant and flamboyant usage of nonsensical name-contractions throughout this article including, but not limited to: J-Law, J-Hutch, Lemsworth, D-Suths, Woody H, Len Krav, J-Wright, Jenna Malone (she was in Sucker Punch, that poor, poor girl), E-Banks and Stancci. Deal with it.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: There may or may not be serious spoilers abound in this article. But guess what? These books have been out for multiple years now. Your illiteracy isn’t my problem…and I realize the irony of that statement seeing as you have to read it in order to get offended. Whatever. 

ONE MORE DISCLAIMER, I PROMISE: I have a horrifying obsession with these books. I don’t know what it is. I read each one of the fuckers in a single sitting and, not only am I not ashamed by this fact, I take pride in it. Yes, they are the literary equivalent of Hodor from GoT wrapped in a infanticide blanket; and Susan Collins approaches sentences like I approach Gummy Bears (I’m coming for you, you delicious mutherfuckers), in that she forces them into her gaping maw of a mouth while slobbering manically over each and every one of her digits soaking in that sweet Haribo goodness (seriously, that stuff is like food porn to me). So, know that going into this review of both The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) that I will not spend the length of it shitting on the darkest set of pseudo-children’s books since Philip Pullman decided to take on the Catholic Church. My love and devotion to these tales is like a Ron Jeremy ass-spelunking expedition: long and deep. Also, they’re the reason why whenever I hear the Suburbs by Arcade Fire come on the radio, I can’t help but think about children getting stabbed in the face. And that’s awesome.

OKAY, I LIED ABOUT THE LAST DISCLAIMER THING, BUT SEEING AS I, AND THE REST OF THE LIVING, BREATHING WORLD IS IN LOVE WITH J-LAW, I SHOULD PROBABLY GET IT OUT OF THE WAY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER: Boobs. Tee hee.

Here we are my friends, the biggest movie of the not-quite-summer-not-yet-Christmas no-man’s-land that is the pre-Thanksgiving insanity consuming America. That’s right, as parents rush from supermarket to supermarket ready to shank the bitch with the last jar of Ground Cinnamon (I did not do that, I promise…I have to say that for legal purposes) and as department stores decide to forget that Thanksgiving is a Federal Holiday and, like Nazi Germany, have decided to annex it as part of the ever-growing and murderous Black Friday, we need a distraction from our self-imposed, food-fueled torment. What better way than to sit down with the fam and delight in a dystopian future where children are slaughtered in order to tamp down revolution? For food! (I knew there was a connection somewhere). Yes, ladies and gents, we have the second movie from The Hunger Games coming to dinner tonight. And it’s packing heat, bitches.

Of course, after gorging myself on the books in a fury of loneliness that can only be crafted by internet dating, my roommates and I stormed the first Hunger Games castle at midnight on a Thursday in the fateful year of Anno Domini MMXII. And, shit, there were so many teenage girls in the audience I would have thought people were stocking up for a Duck-face shortage. The Hunger Games was perhaps the most cynical grab for the post-Twilight sparkly-dick insanity in the last few years (other than The City of Mortal Instruments or Something Like That, I Really Can’t Remember the Title Because it’s Stupid). Directed by Gary Ross of Pleasantville fame, the first movie was about as serviceable as a movie adaptation can be without failing miserably. For the last year I have been afraid to make my true feelings on the first movie apparent, seeing as I might be murdered by hoards of teenage girls newly trained in the Zen of Archery, but I really didn’t care for it. When I strapped myself into the first book, it was a tense, brutal experience. I remember hyperventilating when the games began and that half-book of lead up exploded into sheer terror as twelve-year-old children were unceremoniously impaled for the sake of good TV. Told entirely in the first person from Katniss’s, at best, terse point of view, you fly through the book feeling like a rat trapped in a labyrinth. Rarely does Collins, a seasoned TV writer, pull on the reins to allow you to catch your breath. You never know what’s coming next. And the pages fly so fast, you don’t have time to think about it or the fact that you haven’t seen a worthwhile adjective or multi-claused sentence in three chapters or so.

"What is that thing around your neck, Jen? Is it a turtleneck? A scarf?" "It's whatever I fucking want it to be, Thor-lite."

Have you ever been so mad that you’re turtleneck and scarf had a baby and you didn’t care that half your body was cold?

And then there was the movie… Already, in pre-production, people were making a stink about this no-name Jennifer Lawrence whose last movie, X-Men: First Class was campy mess that encased her in unbreathable and unbearable latex for the entirety of its run time. Yes, she had an Oscar nomination, but what teenage girl gives a fuck about that? But Mr. Ross did his best to create a lived-in world for his tale, from the bonkers costume and hair design of the residents of the Capitol to the grungy Billy-Elliot-Inspired coal miners of District 12. Here’s the problem, for a district filled with believably starved residents, when Liam “Brother of Thor” Hemsworth shows up with a face torn from a cover of GQ and abs practically sponsored by LA Fitness, it sort of destroys the ambiance. Whenever we have shots of District 12 during the games, we are offered a blight of a community, all of the residents looking more at home in a concentration camp than in the US of A…and there, in the center, is Hemsworth looking like a Almost Famous-esque golden god, radiating balanced nutrition and a never-ending membership to Tan-Yo-Ass LLC with impunity.

This was only one example of the grand systemic issue of Ross’s direction and conception of the first movie. It was painfully obvious to see that Lionsgate had attempted in every way, shape, and form to twist this story of rebellion and political defiance into nothing more than a lovey-dovey tri-tipped love-turd. Not only that, but Ross is obviously not a man with a fantasy background. For every inspired design choice, there were five bland ones to discount it. While, we have both Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks offering performances worthy of legend, Mr. Harrelson phones in the majority of his performance, no doubt from his whiskey drowning cellar. Seriously, I don’t know if the guy decided to go method with this movie, but he certainly doesn’t look like he wants to be there. And then, finally, the true piss in the bonnet, is the construction of the games itself. While the book excels in its claustrophobic tension, keeping the reader guessing as to what unnamed horror will be assaulting you on the next page, the movie telegraphs everything in an almost clinical fashion. We are given numerous cutaways to Wes “The Plastic Bag” Bentley, who’s facial hair does its best to emulate a black shark’s butt decoration at all times,  as the Head Gamesmaker. It’s nice to see a few scenes between Crane and President Snow, Sutherland’s mustache-twirling uber-villain, but other than that it does nothing but destroy any tension. On almost every front, from lack of gore to lazy design to a minuscule CGI budget, the whole movie feels like a bald eagle with its talons clipped. You know there’s something majestic and ready-to-steal-a-freaking-baby buried underneath it all, but it seems muffled and diluted.

And that Bald Eagle is, of course, Jennifer Lawrence. If it weren’t for her spot-on performance, with steely eyes ready to gouge themselves out rather than express any sort of weakness, and a voice more monotone than a tone-deaf kazoo, the movie would have unraveled into nothing more than a forgettable farce. She is the flashpoint, the eye of the storm, the focal point of all things. Poor Josh Hutcherson. The kid does his best to hold onto the lady’s fleeting, talented tail feathers, but the charisma just isn’t there. J-Law sells every moment like she’s going for that Oscar once more. And she earns it.

Have you ever been so mad that you set you and your fiance on fire?

Have you ever been so mad that you set you and your fiance on fire?

So…all of that being said about the disappointment that was the first movie…what about the second? Well, if I could sum up my reaction to it in the form of a religious set of genitalia:

HOLY BALLS.

The second movie, along with the two upcoming sequels, is directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation). You might remember him from such fucking gems of the Walmart budget bin as Constantine, I Am Legend and Water for Elephants. As far as literary adaptations go, this guy is 0 for 3. He also has the dubious honor of ruining one of my favorite book-endings of all time with that bullshit during the finale of I Am Legend. UGH. I was readying my steak knife, because I already wanted to eat this bastard alive if he ruined the superior sequel to The Hunger Games… and then I promptly put those knives away and lost myself in the giddy euphoric glee of a squealing fangirl. He doesn’t just do a good job, or even a serviceable job…he exonerates every ounce of the franchise. It seems that, along the way, Lionsgate was like, “Guys, we made WAY more money than we expected with that first movie. Who knew? And we’re going to make a shit load more with the next one. It’s a done deal! What should we do? Fart in people’s faces for two hours? Just give all the fans the finger? I’m just so excited!” To which, Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence (again, no relation), responded, “What if we made it…good?”

Lionsgate: “Woah. You just blew my mind.” So they did. And it’s good…like really, really excellent.

Catching Fire picks up where the first one ended, with Katniss (Ms. Lawrence) and Peeta (J-Hutch) pretending to be in love to try to stop the welling rebellion in the districts surrounding the Capitol. President Beardy Voldemort (Sutherland) pays her a visit and, in a scene that is the acting equivalent of Clash of the Titans, tells J-Law that she had better fall in love with this adorable puppy of a boy that she basically dragged through the first homicidal games or else he will murder her family. No jokes. No comic relief. Just sheer political brutality. After unsuccessfully touring the districts to quell the residents, the President Evil-Mc-Evilson announces that the next Games will include the victors from the previous games sending Ms. Everdeen and Mr. Whatever-Peeta’s-Last-Name-Is back into the ring. And oh, what a ring it is.

Have you ever been so mad that you had a sex dream about Finnick Odair?

Have you ever been so mad that you had a sex dream about Finnick Odair?

It seems as though, due to the fact that the games are now populated exclusively with adults who previously won, the moral ambiguity of seeing children murdered is gleefully removed and Mr. Lawrence can up the gore factor to ‘passable’. While the games are just a bounteous tropical house of horrors, the true tension of the film is in the build up to the explosive second half. The first movie was too busy trying to convince us that the audience was watching The Hunger Games that it forgot to actually let people act. It’s the nervous new kid throwing his first high school birthday party, running around with hors d’oeuvres constantly asking his friends if they’re having a good time and if they’re still his friends. Catching Fire on the other hand oozes the kind of confidence that can only be generated by a $100 million volt up the ass. It’s the kid at the party who’s like, “I’m going to go throw bottles at a wall. You can come if you want.” And OF COURSE you go because that sounds so much better than doing the Electric Slide for another hour. Every returning actor has relaxed into their roles (except Hemsworth, but let’s be real; he’s the human equivalent of a Firefighter Calendar…pretty to look at, but the only information you’ll ever get from him is how many days there are in a month). It seems that every dollar of profit made on the first outing has been returned to the artistic design, offering grander locales, CGI that ain’t nothing to sneeze at, and an incredible Hawaii set for the second games.

Lastly, of course, there are the new additions to the cast. Firstly, we have the psychotic Joanna (Jenna Malone) who manages to redeem herself in the face of Sucker Punch once and for all. Then there’s Jeffrey “Black Felix Leiter” Wright as Beady and Tarantino veteran Amanda Plummer furiously muttering he only line over and over. Perhaps the only actor willing to bask in the light of J-Law and survive the fame-tan is Mr. Sam Clafin as the beautiful and impish Finnick Odair. The man gives a career-making performance that will only get better with the next two films. Even Mr. Harrelson seems to have sobered up and decided to flex those pseudo-hick acting chops. Lastly, and certainly not leastly, Philip Seymour Hoffman waltzes (let’s be real, there’s a bit of a waddle) into the film looking as though he just woke up from a nap…proving that the guy that act well in his fucking sleep. Seriously, the scenes between Hoffman and Sutherland make the Bentley/Sutherland tet a tets of the first film look like community theater. How often do you get to see acting of this quality in the adaptation of a Tweenie-bopper book? It’s insane.

There is something mildly revolutionary about The Hunger Games. It’s a sad thing to see that, still, every major motion picture of the last few years include only male protagonists with some lady-candy on the side. I don’t care how much the production companies attempt to force The Hunger Games into the Twilight mold, what with their bullshit ‘Team Peeta’ and ‘Team Gale’ t-shirts and obsession with Katniss’s choice as to who wins the coveted position of ‘baby-daddy’, The Hunger Games will not be contained. She will shove an arrow in your face and kick her way out to freedom. The love story in this film and in the books is about as central to the tale as Han and Leia in Star Wars. Sure, it’s there. Sure, it affects the story. Is it the point? NO. It’s part of a damn story. There are no ‘teams’. There are characters and there are themes. If Katniss Everdeen and Twilight’s Bella Bitch-face were stuck in a room together, while Bella was too busy chewing on her lip and crying about boys, Katniss would have already disemboweled her and started cooking her lower intestine for food. That’s right, because Katniss eats food, unlike the Barbie dolls trotted out for public consumption. When I eventually have daughters, I will lock them in their rooms until they finish The Hunger Games, no doubt banging on the doors begging to be free from this depressing mass of political cynicism. And then I’ll hand them 1984, lock the door and say, “Time to be a big girl.” Yep. I’m going to be a kickass dad.

Have you ever been so mad that you forced D-Suths and P-Hoff to reenact your favorite scenes from the West Wing?

Have you ever been so mad that you forced D-Suths and P-Hoff to reenact your favorite scenes from the West Wing?

If these books had been written ten years ago, no doubt they would have been forced to target male audiences and the protagonists’ genders would have been swapped because “girls don’t like violence.” Collins, after escaping the toxic wasteland of television production, has done a great thing. She didn’t set out to craft a harlequin romance or even chick-lit. She wanted to bear the world a mythos, a legend. There is no question that she knew of the grander scale involved in this tale, what with the future-historicization of the world as well as the basis in Greek Mythology (Katniss is decently veiled analog to the Labyrinth’s Theseus). Her gambit has paid off, offering a series that is almost as widely read as Harry Potter (as I’m writing this review, there is a 20-something hipster with a hardback copy of Mockingjay” sitting next to me in my extremely hipster coffee shop). Collins knew what she wanted to say, she invested to her characters and, like George Lucas before her, she stuck to the Hero’s Journey closer than a fly sticks to treacle. And what serendipity it was to cast Jennifer Lawrence. The woman is the new generation’s feminist idol. She’s equal parts demigod beauty, cornbread gentility, candor-escewing badass, sweeter-than-an-apple-pie-that-she-probably-made-and-then-will-eat-all-by-herself angel and sex symbol without removing any of her clothes. She is the female Harrison Ford. But, you know, with talent. It is to Mr. Lawrence’s credit (DEAR GOD, CAN’T THAT MAN CHANGE HIS NAME, I’M TRYING TO WRITE A REVIEW HERE) he never overtly sexualizes Katniss outside of her absurd array of evening gowns. We have no underwear scenes, no butt-shots and the costume for the second half of the movie, while skin-tight, is purely functional. In another person’s hands, we would have seen kevlar bikinis and cleavage up the wazoo because, let’s be honest, J-Law is not lacking in the chest department. But this movie, and the director, respect her and Katniss too much for such base intentions. Thank the lord.

If Catching Fire is any indication, The Hunger Games is well on its way to establish a non-gendered nerd legend for this decade. While the third book, trying desperately to stick to the formula of the previous two, falls flatter than a steam-rolled pancake, the next two movies will afford the characters what they didn’t get on the page: time to breathe. Collins tried to squeeze a national revolution into the book-equivalent of a nutshell while refusing to let us see the hugeness of the event. I hope and believe that these next two filmic chapters will push the books where they weren’t confident enough to go. Shit, they have the money for it. And, unless Ms. Lawrence is caught with dead underage hookers in her bed, the lady’s effervescence is nigh-impenetrable.

ONWARD AND UPWARD, FRIENDS.

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Sinister (2012) – Scott Derrickson (Dir.) Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred “I Ran For President Once” Thompson, James Ransone

and

Seven Psychopaths (2012) – Martin McDonagh (Dir.), Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton

This may, or may not, give away the ending of the movie. Thanks, poster. You dick.

Ah, the ‘multiplex’. To us film-loving types, it is a rite of passage. An act of daring. A maneuver of such dastardly elusiveness, only the most capable of cinematic scoundrels can pull it off! Well, that was back in the days of not-being-17 and wanting, nay, needing to see South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut in theaters (Damn you, Wild Wild West for your bloated ticket sales!). Nowadays, the only reason to sneak into a movie while paying for a different one would be because you’re too poor in your post-college life to afford two tickets to two movies you only kinda want to see. Never fear! I did the adult thing! I multiplexed the SHIT out of these movies!…In that I saw one, left, ate some Panera (like a fucking adult) and then paid for the other movie. I be a classy mutherfucker (P.S. my mom reads this – or, as it’s pronounced in England ‘mum’, or, on the rare occasion, ‘boodle-matron’. Just thought you should all know). So, yes, as a busy adult with busy adult things to do, I had to fit these two badboys of movie mayhem into a single afternoon. Armed with a Meg and a Huntsberger, we stormed the beaches of mediocre horror and meta-McDonagh-magic. Now, I could have written two articles…but guess what? I have shit to do. So you get one. But it’s a long one. (That’s what she said. Lucky girl.)

So, what have we here? Sinister, the not-so-awaited follow up to Insidious, and the prequel to Nefarious, which will be, in turn, a spin-off of the series: Iniquitous, Not Very Nice,  and Kind of a Dick, tells the tale of an asshole getting killed really, really slowly by always making the wrong choices (SPOILERS). His name is Ethan Hawke. Well, it’s something else in the movie…but who will ever actually remember? He writes books about murders and then goes to the places where the murders happen and…well, that stuff is boring. The interesting part is that he discovers a collection of ‘Home Movies’ made by a gentleman who could give Rob Zombie some hints on how to actually string a series of scenes together. This guy is, in fact, an ancient Babylonian deity with a penchant for Super 8 film named ‘Bughool’ or ‘Bug Drool’ or ‘Bunghole’ or ‘Not as Scary as The Ring; You’re Trying Too Hard’. This fellow eats children, like you do, and usually dines on the youngest in a family that he then murders in gloriously ritualistic fashion. If you have half a brain, you have to ask yourself, who is going to murder the incessant and egregiously penis-esque Ethan Hawke and what fun way will they do it? I won’t spoil anything…though I already have, but it is fairly amusing.

“Hmm…you’re only paying me how much? I won’t even phone it in for that price. You fuckers are getting a telegrammed performance.” ~ Ethan Hawke, his own agent.

So, after witnessing a good deal of horror movies in the last month and an unacceptable amount during my rather miniature lifespan, it’s become clear that the ‘horror’ well is running a little dry. Yes, every now and then, a delicious cup of water comes up with the bucket, glistening like gems in the light…right before that kid from The Ring turns your face into a Picasso. But, more often than not, the bucket just comes up with sludge. Sometimes you’ll find some lead in there as well, double trouble. Since most of the classic horror beasts were created in the 70s and 80s, people have been attempting to rehash the magic. And, in some cases, they literally rehash what they think is the magic, only to discover that it’s a bucket filled with turd-meat (I’m looking at you, Jason X). The only team that has perhaps come anywhere close would be that of Saw. Like it or not, the ‘Jigsaw Killer’ is now an accepted member of the collective imagination, no matter how hackneyed and painful the later installments may be. Those boys went on to make the gloriously bat-shit movie that was Insidious. Now, beginning screenwriters, you know those rules everyone tells you about structure and tone and dramatic arc? Well, eat those. Regurgitate them. Blend them. Drink them again. And then puke on a computer. That would about explain the narrative arc of that movie. However, it was surprisingly interesting, for the most part. And then, the final act, descends into a realm reserved only for the Marquis De Sade, Salvador Dali and Charlie Sheen. It was a mess of such colossal proportions that even Lindsay Lohan gave it a once over before saying, “Gurl, get it together“.

So, here we have their follow-up. Does it make more sense? Yes. Is it as interesting? No. I’ll give the boys props, Bughool, or whatever his name is, comes off as exceedingly, what’s the word I’m looking for?…It’s like evil, but more baleful. Menacing? No. It’s not ‘insidious’…oh, man, it’s going to bug me. I’ll let you know when I think of it. Anyway, as a villain, he keeps the creep factor in the land of ‘Uncles Commenting on Their 16-year-old Nieces’ Bikini Facebook Pictures’, even if his face looks like if Gene Simmons’ forgot his safeword on bondage night. if you’ve seen any of the commercials, you’ve already witnessed the ‘scary’ bits (the paused image looking at Ethan Hawke, the harem of missing children watching a Bughool movie in the attic, etc.) so the rest of it is just a dude wandering around a house with a baseball bat. What is truly rotten at the core of this otherwise outwardly delicious treat is Mr. Hawke. He does a fine job as an actor. However, his character is so utterly detestable that all you can do for the length of the movie is hope that his demise involves some sort of accident involving testicles in a blender (it doesn’t). When offered night after night of terrifying shit, he still lies to his hot British wife about the fact that they are living in the house where the last victims were hilawkwardly murdered only a few months before. It’s all in the service of him refusing to accept that he’s a shitty author whose fifteen minutes of fame are over. Perhaps the writers were attempting to create some sort of tragic figure with Ethan “I’m a Really Serious Actor, I Promise” Hawke…but he is simply another Horror-Movie-Alcoholic-Dad (TM). And we all know what happens to them. The thing plays out like a parable written by Aesop after a weekend doing heroin with Edgar Allan Poe. There are no shocking turns, no surprises. You can discern the ending within the first twenty minutes of the movie. Thus, when it all comes together in exactly the way you expect, all you can do is leave the theater with a shrug.

“Shh, mister, I can’t hear Slipknot over your loud talking!” ~ Deaf Children

Perhaps the only true moments of brilliance in this melange of mediocrity all involve the found footage (eh? Eh? It’s even in this one!). Bughool’s movies are delightfully sadistic and the true reason for this movie’s R-rating. I don’t want to give any of them away, but my favorite involves a tracking shot on a lawnmower. Each film is beautifully scored with the creepiest of tunes (in fact, the whole movie has an excellent soundtrack, keeping the events tense even if the script isn’t pulling it’s fucking weight. Lazy script. Get a job, you hippie!) and begins with a simple scene of idyllic suburban bliss before cutting to one of four unique bloodbaths. In a sense, these vignettes cut to the core of what film fundamentally is. Here, it’s a disturbing exploration of the art-form’s voyeuristic basis, going so far as to recreate the closest thing to a snuff film you can legally see. Seriously, they go to impressive lengths. It promotes the idea that this violence and these horrid acts are part of a collective evil running through our society, a need to see brutality in it’s purest form, a completely sinister…

THAT’S THE WORD I WAS LOOKING FOR! Holy shit. I’m glad I remembered it. What are the odds of that?

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, yes, Seven Psychopaths.

This is the grossest act of false advertising since McDonalds began their “Kind of Edible!” Campaign.

So, onto a better (kind of) movie. To those of you who don’t know, I have a minor love affair with writer/director Martin McDonagh. His plays The Pillowman, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lieutenant of Inishmoore and The Cripple of Inishmaan are some of my favorite works I’ve ever read. He instills a deep sense of dark Irish humor with British violence and cynicism while managing to tie the package with the neat ribbon of pathos. His first attempt at film, Six Shooter, ended up with an exploding cow and an oscar. His second was the inconceivably hysterical and sad In Bruges, a semi-parody of another one of my favorite plays, The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter. So, basically, I’d have his babies. I know I don’t have the equipment, but I will find a way. I vow, here and now.

But then, the balloon was pierced and, instead of popping and scaring the shit of nearby babies, it just kind of wheezes. I attended a production of his new play A Behanding in Spokane in Chicago. Yes, the performance sucked…but what was at the center was a shallow, bland tale that used violence to cover up is completely surface nature. Gone was the Irish longing, the romanticism drenched in modern urban brutality, the deep roots in the art of storytelling. It was just a dude hurting two idiots. So, after seeing that and the trailer to his newest venture, I found myself nervous. Would this be a further descent into the mouth of blandness? Has Mr. McDonagh completed his path to hack-dom? Will Christopher Walken Walken the shit out of this thing?

Sam “Amateur Hat Enthusiast” Rockwell

Well…it’s complicated. I enjoyed this movie greatly, with my healthily guffawing theater friends flanking me on both sides. From the opening where we witness the incomparable Michael Stuhlbarg and the DSLicious Michael Pitt get randomly murdered by a guy wearing a parka, you know you’re in for something a little…well…screwy. And screwy it is, folks! The entire first half of flick builds up the belief that this is some kind of Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez/Pineapple Express action comedy where all the ‘psychopaths’ get into place for a final, fatal, self-fellacious showdown. But the second half is extremely not that. To some, it might disappear up its own ass. To others, something a little more subtle is going on.

Marty, Colin Farrell (and the name of the author? Hmmm. I see what you did there), is a screenwriter who’s been stuck on the same title page of a script for months. Every night he drinks and every night he does little more than piss off his shrewish and inexplicably Australian girlfriend, Abby Cornish. At the same time, Sam Rockwell steals dogs and returns them to owners for a profit. Chris Walken is, well, the most fucking Chris Walken I have ever seen. In fact, the levels of Walken-ness are so relentless that you eventually stumble from the theater with a randomly broken speech pattern and the completely shocking ability to softshoe. Woody Harrelson is a vulnerable and homicidal mob boss with a penchant for losing his temper. Tom Waits is a dude with a rabbit. There’s also a Vietnamese priest talking to a hooker. And then Harry Dean Stanton shows up in a story as a tenacious and murderous quaker. There are so many disparate elements on display that its almost impossible to predict how they’ll all slot together.

“What are you in for?” “Being in Joe Dirt, you?” “White Men Can’t Jump.” ~ Actor jail.

And then Mr. McDonagh cheats his fucking ass off. Now, that sounds bad, I know. But it isn’t. Well, unless you don’t like meta. If you don’t care for references within references within references within Leo DiCaprio making that squinty face within references, don’t see this movie. However, if you can handle a little self-reflexive media (let’s be real, unabashedly and unremittingly self-reflexive media) then you should. It’s like Adaptation with more grievous bodily harm. It’s as though, as I did, Mr. McDonagh examined his career, his body of work, and noticed a few glaring issues. First: he relies on violence far too much. He uses his flippant tone to whittle his characters down to nothing more than meat fodder. Second: his female characters have gradually evaporated from his repertoire, reduced to nothing more than whores or saints about to be butchered or simply cut from the story. Third: the love is gone. His earlier works are soaked in a dark reverence for the odd inhabitants of Gallway Bay, where he spent his childhood summers. Gradually, culminating with A Behanding in Spokane, he has lost all affection for his subject matter and that which seemed endearing parody has become ruthless ridicule. Seven Psychopaths is his literary path towards dealing and overcoming each and every one of these problems, while simultaneously engaging in them entirely.

We have Mr. Farrell, as a stand-in for McDonagh, at the center of two opposing ideologies. On one side we have the chucklicious and unhinged mind of Sam Rockwell (who I don’t think was given lines, he simply made it up as he went and the result is delightful), proposing to end their tale with the cliched and overwrought gunfight, a shower of titties and a veritable gore-bath. On the other, we have Mr. Walken, who has a strong love for the human condition. We see McDonagh’s/Farrell’s struggle with the compassion for these psychopaths and the frustration with trying to end the tale with love. How they do it is perhaps my favorite aspect of this film and terrifyingly similar to Naughty Sinister. They tell tales. Fairytales, folktales, horror stories, fables and all the rest. From the frightfully excellent Tom Waits telling his narrative of a vicious love story that hadn’t yet ended to the arc of Mr. Walken, we get some incredible links from pure sadism to touching human emotion. The movie is no conclusion and, for the most part, is surprisingly messy. And that’s fine. It has its shoot-outs, its chortlifying moments of dark comedy etc. But, like Sinister, the miniature vignettes stand out as beautiful deconstructions of their form. Sinister solely serves to study cinema as it’s seen, while Seven Psychopaths scrutinizes the skill of spinning a story.

All rabbits grow up believing that if they’re naughty, they have to spend an eternity living with Tom Waits and all of his REALLY hipstery fans.

I left Seven Psychopaths thinking hard about who I am as an artist. It takes a lot of balls to spend millions of dollars to tell the journey of a man stuck in his career’s mid-life crisis. Luckily, this guy knows how to make ’em laugh. Truly, though, the stories of a man avenging his daughter’s death, a Vietnamese priest avenging his murdered family, and Mr. Waits avenging his wife’s past are all deeply touching in their own, twisted fashion. So, in a way, Mr. McDonagh has found it again. Let’s hope, in the coming years, that he manages to dig his way out of his own ass and create something new. For now, we’ll let him wallow in his filmic colon because, you know what? His excrement is a damn side more artistic than half of Hollywood on a good day.