"Seven Psychopaths" has two huge things going for it -- a superb script by writer/director Martin McDonagh and the best cast of screwball con men who shoot to thrill since "The Usual Suspects." Both turn what would have been a rather tepid tale of dognapping gone bad into crazy fun.
The focal point for the movie's oddball insanity is Marty (Colin Farrell), a writer who's creatively blocked. All he has is a title for his next book -- Seven Psychopaths -- and a best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), who splits his time between stealing dogs with Hans (Christopher Walken) and trying to be part of Marty's next book.
Chaos comes when the dognappers grab the pooch owned by a psychopathic killer (Woody Harrelson).
McDonagh's screenplay's so cleverly written, it's as if the script is being penned while we are watching the movie. The action bounces from the absurdest reality of Marty and his bonkers buddies to flights of imaginative fancy as the writer comes up with possible stories for his book.
Having Marty working on his novel throughout the film allows McDonagh to go in any direction without having to come up with a complicated reason for the action.
One such scene is Marty's efforts to work out the story line for a Vietnamese man on a mission to kill the people who murdered his family. Because this is a story within the story, McDonagh has free rein to twist and turn the character on a whim.
Eventually, the film and book worlds become so tangled, they just become one steady stream of insanity.
This is a huge difference from McDonagh's first film, "In Bruges," which featured equally interesting characters but was far more linear -- and chatty -- in design.
And then there's the cast. McDonagh has pulled together the crème de la crème of Hollywood actors who are masters at playing psychopathic characters. You know this is a wild and crazy cast when Farrell is the sane person in the room.
No one plays psychopath better than Rockwell. His actions are crazy. But no matter how bizarre his actions, there's something about how he plays the character that he remains extremely likable. It's the same formula that Walken has used to play similar characters over the years. Bringing these two together is like an awards ceremony for the Psychopathic Characters Hall of Fame.
This all-star cast -- coupled with the crisp and creative script -- makes "Seven Psychopaths" a film you would be crazy not to see.
"Seven Psychopaths," rrated R for language, violence. Stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson. Directed by Martin McDonagh. Running time: 109 minutes. Grade: A- | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.