Seven Psychopaths ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

This movie is best compared to structural antecedent White Dog. Supporting evidence:

1) Like White Dog, Seven Psychopaths is set in Hollywood; opening song identifies "the angel of death" with the Hollywood sign, letting us know Martin McDonagh's original thoughts on the industry. Like White Dog, social problems are unarticulated by characters living within visible sight of an image-making factory that more often reflects consensus-bordering-on-reactionary images about who can be a villain (and who makes a hero/sympathetic fuck-up protag) than one which tries to alter those images — one bound to promulgate negative stereotypes past their progressive sell-by date for the sake of commercial safety

2) Daisy the instigating canine is a Shih Tzu, not a German shepherd, but she does prompt racially charged violence. Comparing McDonagh pejoratively to Tarantino doesn't make sense (rhythmically they're totally different) except insofar as the former is also throwing the n-word around and ladeling out the offensive epithets for the sake of witty banter like crazy, ostensibly also in service of a larger statement on American race relations that doesn't really cohere. The political obliviousness nested within an industry that prides itself on progressive inclinations is the same as White Dog's scenario: guilt-ridden actress tries to make racial problems go away by hiding/separating them from professional life, pretending social symptoms are divorced from her career. (Here the [malef]actor is Sam Rockwell, whose issues are with women rather than minorities, and on whom the game is given away a bit too early when he learn he's "Billy Bickle" and he then gives a nervy monologue to the mirror.)

3) Two of the back-stories depict a white male and black female with an incredibly violent back-story: once as responsive perpetrators whose sadistic streak ends with the death of the Zodiac killer (!) from which the white guy walks away, once as victims of white bigots (a story told once as fiction, once as Christopher Walken's real-backstory: "forgot to mention that" re: his daughter introduces a whole new subtext to a previously implicitly all-white story, and a reminder of motives which can't be politely articulated). Having introduced a lot of racist language and racial violence, McDonagh ends with a too-blunt shot of an American flag, singed by a neighbor's flame and only a quarter there, standing in for a republic tarred by racial violence, the great constant of McDonagh's film. This is the same topic as White Dog, which argumentatively builds from one dog's actions to its masters' racialized actions and the violent consequences, an indictment of a larger national problem that can't be completely ignored in the entertainment industry bubble.

Pretty funny, though not as consistently I was told; as in In Bruges, ridiculously (stigmatically) bloody violence leads to Catholic penance and moral retribution (McDonagh writes himself in as lead character "Marty," a feint which doesn't excuse the already-signature monomania). The central comic trio of Farrell-Rockwell-Walken (the latter in his least schtick-y turn in some time) works terrifically, and enough laughs were to be had to justify my matinee ticket.