Hollywoodland

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Off to LA on top secret business. Will try to keep you posted.

Watched SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS not knowing much except a few of the names of the excellent cast and that it’s the guy who made IN BRUGES, which we mainly enjoyed. So it turned out to be set in Hollywood — opening shot is the famous Shadowplay Hollywood sign — and it has an ADAPTATION kind of self-reflective side, being the story of a drunken Irish screenwriter trying to write a screenplay entitled Seven Psychopaths, but he keeps encountering the characters he writes about. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR?

This is kind of like a Bertrand Blier romp, jumbling an outrageous comic plot with self-referential deconstruction, except without much apparent serious side. The weird coincidences whereby characters invented by Colin Farrell’s character turn out to be real are never explained. The auto-critique of violent movies is just a joke, and having Christopher Walken tell Farrell that he writes dreadful female characters does not necessarily excuse wasting the talents of Abbie Cornish in a role with zero development and a combined wet T-shirt/death scene.

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BUT — it must be said that Martin McDonagh’s gift for outrageous dialogue outstrips Tarantino’s, and he has fantastic performers on the top of their game: Farrell is really good at this kind of thing, and he has a character that makes more sense than in IN BRUGES; Christopher Walken is on top form AND is cast against type, kind of; Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are very funny too. And Harry Dean Stanton turns up, all too briefly as seems to be the way with him these days. Must see HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION, the acclaimed documentary, so I can get a decent dose of Harry Dean.

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Plus Tom Waits and a rabbit.

It’s all pretty rambling and meaningless, and though Walken and Linda Bright Clay are employed to give it some heart, it’s the fact that, after Gabourey Sidibe is terrorized by gunmen (to show how bad the bad guys are), she’s allowed to live, that suggests McDonagh might actually have some feeling for his marionettes. Helpless characters in action cinema generally exist only to be snuffed as demonstrations of villainy and to motivate the hero towards more violence: we all know Robert Rodriguez or John Woo would have wasted her in a heartbeat.

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8 Responses to “Hollywoodland”

  1. As for Bertrand Blier romps —

  2. I very much enjoyed SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. Liked it more than I did IN BRUGES.

  3. kevin mummery Says:

    After having seen SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, I immediately went home and dug out all the DVDs I’ve got that feature Christopher Walken for a sort of mini film festival. He really does improve any movie he’s in, although some stuff is totally irredeemable (like BALLS OF STEEL, for example). I’m really looking forward to more from Martin McDonagh in the future, too…much more so than anything from Tarantino.

  4. It’ll be interesting to see where McDonagh goes from here. The Pirandellian thing is often the last act of a desperate man, but he did an amusing spin on it.

  5. In Bruges had such a rigorous structure (it felt like it painstakingly paid off each element it set up) that I was surprised by how shambling Seven Psychopaths seemed, but I really enjoyed it. The latter part with Walken, Farrell, and Rockwell hanging out in the desert reminded me of a Takeshi Kitano film (I think McDonagh shows a clip from a Kitano film early on?), which often seem to leave you waiting for the expected climax while the characters perform random hijinks (Sonatine, Kikujiro). Anyway, a great review (as usual).

  6. Thanks! In Bruges was maybe a little TOO tight and overdetermined, as with the shooting of the “child” near the end. But neat!

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