October 15, 2012
Seven Psychopaths loves movies, hates women
I'm a big fan of Martin McDonagh's dark, funny, misanthropic plays, and I went nuts for his 2008 movie In Bruges, which somehow achieved a perfect balance of touching, offensive, disturbing, and hilarious that I don't think I've seen anywhere else. His characters are racist, sexist, angry, screwed up disasters with a strain of morality and sweetness that they can't quite obliterate, no matter how hard they try.
So I was super excited for his new movie, Seven Psychopaths, about a struggling writer trying to come up with a screenplay for a non-violent action movie about murder. Did it live up to my expectations? No! It didn't. This movie explores other movies that use senseless violence and misogyny as easy crutches when filmmakers don't have much of substance to say, which was interesting. But it also relies heavily on that same senseless violence and misogyny in order to make its points, which are confused and sort of sloppy. It's a mess, but a fun mess.
But here are the things I liked: all the references to other movies that show a real love of movies themselves, especially the ones that also wrestle with violence and morality. Sam Rockwell's character is named Billy Bickle, who shares a name with Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle, and is also an unhinged, wildly unpredictable lunatic. I already loved Sam Rockwell, but he captures something really unusually mental in this role as an actor with a single-mindedly passionate interest in getting his friend's writing career back on track.
There's also Christopher Walken and his wife--their last name is Kieslowski, the same name as the wonderful Polish director who explored confounding moral puzzles and the complexities of human relationships in his Three Colors and Decalogue series. Christopher Walken and his wife are the most bloodthirsty, badass couple named after a Polish movie director you could ever dream of.
These little movie references are all throwaways, and there aren't any big arrows pointing at the ideas they seem to suggest. But they've got to be intentional (who comes up with a name like Kieslowski? For Christopher Walken?) and a deeper level of thought about what it means to make a movie in which just about everyone (SPOILER ALERT) gets brutally killed and all the women characters are flimsy sketches who also get brutally killed. And then to go ahead and make that very movie, and to make it entertaining and funny so your audience is left not sure of what just happened, but totally in love with this image of Tom Waits holding a bunny and a gun next to a woman dressed like Bonnie Parker:
As McDonagh said in an interview with the NY Times: "But there's a rabbit in that scene. There's a lovely rabbit. It's not all violent."
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