Writer-director Martin McDonagh's "Seven Psychopaths" is a twisty and violent gangster tale that simultaneously mocks and reveres the conventions of the genre.
The movie shares its title with the unfinished screenplay in the head of Marty (Colin Farrell), an alcoholic Irish screenwriter in Hollywood (and possibly a double for McDonagh, who worked with Farrell on "In Bruges"). Marty's actor pal Billy (Sam Rockwell) offers to help write the script and find some real psychopaths as material.
Billy's other work, a side scam in which he and his pal Hans (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs and then return them for the reward money, draws the attention of an unstable gangster, Charlie (Woody Harrelson), who will kill anybody standing between him and his beloved shih tzu.
McDonagh includes some more nasty killers including a masked assassin who leaves jack-of-diamonds calling cards, an old man (Tom Waits) with a bunny, and a vengeful Vietnamese soldier (Long Nguyen) and a few abrupt tone shifts in a script that frequently comments on gangster clichés and Marty's limitations as a screenwriter. (For example, Marty and the movie both have problems with female characters, leaving Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko high and dry.)
Rockwell is impressive as the manic Billy, while Walken steals his scenes as he gives Hans a world-weary seriousness that keeps McDonagh's weird world nicely grounded.
Opens Friday, Oct. 12, at theaters everywhere; rated R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use; 109 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.