Film Review: ‘Psychopaths’ has wit, humor

As hysterical as it is deranged, “Seven Psychopaths” is not only one of the most outrageously entertaining comedies of 2012, but also proof that life has not lost its ability to produce clever humor in the most insane of scenarios. 

If I had to name one film genre that seems to have lost its flair for good taste in the 21st century, it would be comedy. Where there used to be wit, now there’s crudity.

If you’re concerned about wit being all but extinct in the realm of comedy, then you’re in for a treat when you see “Seven Psychopaths.” By the time the end credits start rolling and you rise from your seat to leave the cinema, you’ll know the intelligent aspect of humor has not been completely abandoned in this day and age.

Struggling screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) is having difficulty in finishing his latest screenplay, titled “Seven Psychopaths.” His best friend is unemployed actor/dog thief Billy (Sam Rockwell), who would do anything to help Marty find the focus and inspiration he needs. Hans (Christopher Walken), a religious man with a violent past, is Billy’s accomplice.

Marty finds himself becoming embroiled in the Los Angeles underworld when his oddball friends abduct a Shih Tzu named Bonny, who belongs to Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), a violent and unpredictable gangster. This crazy situation is guaranteed to provide the inspiration Marty needs to complete his screenplay. The only question is: Will he live to tell the story?

uch of the humor is punctuated by a talky, yet energetic atmosphere, coupled with bizarre character interactions that border on insanity.

Such a Tarantino-esque vibe may sound cartoonish, but director Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”) manages to make it work. Besides, how often do you come across a black comedy as crazy and coherent as this? I know I rarely do, and when moments like this appear, it would be wise to enjoy them while they last.

One of the film’s key strengths lies in its willingness to shed light on the concept of a psychopath. This game of finding out who is a true psychopath and who exhibits a few psychopathic elements is highly amusing, to say the least, especially when we get into the psyches of these disturbed individuals.

The dark humor embedded within the back stories of some of the characters provides sufficient insight into the circumstances that created such unusual human beings, and I even felt a hint of sympathy for them.

To top it off, the ongoing development of Farrell’s screenplay in the film never suffers from a shortage of intelligent laughs, thanks to Rockwell’s eye-catching narration.

Farrell proves to be quite adept at using his eyebrows to portray the drunken screenwriter who can’t seem to solve his problems on his own. The best performance, I have to say, goes to Sam Rockwell, all because of his deft balancing of inconceivable idiocy with knowledgeable good intentions. Christopher Walken is, as usual, at the top of his game when exchanging dialogue in his trademark deadpan manner, all the while remaining conscious of his surroundings.

The only complaint I have against “Seven Psychopaths” concerns its female cast members; none of them bring out much of the narrative’s feminine side. Abbie Cornish only gets a few scenes to be Farrell’s passive-aggressive girlfriend, but other than being frustrated with his alcoholism and lack of motivation, she doesn’t do a whole lot.

If intelligent humor is your game, then “Seven Psychopaths” ought to be the next film on your “see-in-cinemas” list. If not, you might want to keep this tip in mind about the cast members: they won’t take any Shih Tzu.

When: Now playing
Where: Wide release
Run time: 1 hour 49 minutes
Rating: R