Here’s the framework. Working on a new film, Hollywood screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) suffers from writer’s block. Friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) offers suggestions when he isn’t busy with Hans (Christopher Walken) kidnapping dogs and then returning them to their owners for a nice reward. When they mistakenly dognap Bonny, a cute ShihTzu owned by heartless mob man Charlie (Woody Harrelson), high stakes trouble ensues. To be fair, the circuitous plot moves along, despite the dramatically different acting styles of Farrell, Rockwell, Walken, Harrelson, and, in cameos, Harry Dean Stanton and Tom Waits.
Suggestive of a mishmash of the Coens’ “No Country for Old Men” and any Tarantino film, “Seven Psychopaths” sags under the weight of its conceit; that is, without a tightly coherent story, central character Marty can struggle writing a screenplay that will justify this film’s lack of unity. The plot can then string together wacky scenes with scant rhyme or reason, all played for laughs with a touch of post-modern mockery. Films have traded for years on strained formulas, so a bit of silliness at their expense is warranted, even welcome. But there’s no payoff; for example, one character comments on the paltry amount of time and the negative roles for women, and there are egregious insults to minorities. Then it succumbs to its own complaints.
Technically, the film lacks crisp exposures, perhaps a fault of the digital projection here and not the cinematographer. Carter Burwell’s music does contribute its own bemused interpretation of events, as in his Coen Brothers work. But over all, “Seven Psychopaths” proves that merely exaggerating the violence or noting negativity does not equal wit or insight enough to carry a feature-length film without a bit more to chew on. At area cinemas.