The New ‘Pulp Fiction’

Courtesy of CBS Films

Dialogue-driven feature films are usually hard to execute in this current age of filmmaking. Unless your name is Quentin Tarantino or Aaron Sorkin, however, then it isn’t a problem. Thankfully though, another great name has been added to the list of the best screenwriters in Hollywood, and that is Martin McDonagh with his “In Bruges” follow-up film “Seven Psychopaths.”

Marty (Colin Farrell) is a struggling, alcoholic screenwriter attempting to write his next feature film titled “Seven Psychopaths.” Unfortunately, he can’t write anything more than the potential movie’s title. He receives advice from his best friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), an unemployed actor that moonlights as a dog thief with his partner-in-crime Hans (Christopher Walken). One day Billy and Hans steal the beloved Shih Tzu of short-tempered gangster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), which sets forth a wild adventure of bloody violence and dark-comedy galore.

Might I mention that also thrown into the mix is an odd man with a white rabbit (Tom Waits), two hot girlfriends (Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko) and many close-up shots of dogs throughout.

With an ensemble cast that’s this talented, you expect them to knock it out of the park, and boy, do they succeed that feat here. Finally donning his Irish accent for the first time in a while, Colin Farrell does a solid job in the lead by turning in a subdued performance as a character trying to remain as normal as possible amidst a sea of colorful characters that surround him.

Apart from Farrell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson are both terrific in their roles, too. If you’ve been a longtime fan of both of these actors’ classic mannerisms and ability to perform dark comedy to such great extent, you certainly won’t be disappointed with them in this. A shout-out to all you Tom Waits fans: if you don’t get a kick out of his extended cameo character in this film, I don’t know what else manages to keep you entertained.

Stealing the show heads and shoulders above everyone else is Sam Rockwell. Everything meshes together perfectly whenever he’s on screen, whether it’s quipping one-liners left and right or his zany energy ratcheting up the oddball nature for the majority of the film. Rockwell has continued his status as one of the most underrated actors in the film industry for nearly a decade, but I’m willing to start an immediate campaign for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar race for how great he is here.

Having already worked with ingenious uses of dark comedy in his 2008 freshman feature film “In Bruges,” writer-director Martin McDonagh proves yet again why he’s one of the exquisite filmmakers working today. His background as a playwright serves as the foundation for why he’s exceptional at writing dialogue, with a style that’s somewhat similar to one of his own filmmaking influences, Quentin Tarantino.

McDonagh matches his unique characters with fast-paced dialogue that’s most of the time extremely meta-oriented in terms of the story Marty’s trying to write, but also providing cleverly satiric commentary on the job of Hollywood screenwriting itself. The story also manages to match itself alongside the impeccable level of the dialogue because McDonagh executes most of the film’s events in the most non-serious way possible and that technique doesn’t even come close to warranting that aspect as a potential flaw.

As great as the comedy is in this film, it’s certainly not for everyone. Granted, there are hilarious one-liners throughout, but the sight gags and race jokes are just as funny in their execution by both McDonagh and his actors. Some of the humor at times does come off as too awkward to laugh at, but that’s simply part of the crazy experience it takes you on.

Though it may require another viewing for me to gather together the jokes this critic missed, “Seven Psychopaths” is still a bloody great dark comedy, with easily one of the best scripts of the year so far. Infusing a combination of elements from films like “Pulp Fiction,” “Adaptation” and “Snatch,” crime comedy genre mash-ups simply don’t get much better than this sure-to-be future cult classic.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5