A free screening of “Seven Psychopaths” in the Mission brought out hundreds of hipsters earlier this week. The film, releasing Nov. 2, is dark, hilarious, violent and surprisingly touching, and already appears to be a hit.
The Mission’s Roxie Theater teamed up with Vice magazine to host the free screening Monday night. Hundreds of people showed up at least two hours early for the 7 p.m. showing, waiting in a line that quickly snaked around the block.
Vice is a New York City–based media company that publishes magazines and creates multimedia web content and feature documentaries.
There was a feeling of excitement in the line, although it wasn’t clear whether this was due to anticipation over the movie or the fact that it was free. Either way, the idea that they were standing in line for something free and cool inspired some people to brown-bag 40-ouncers of Miller High Life.
Not everyone who waited in line made it into one of the theater’s 238 seats; nearly all but the first three rows were filled by the time that people who had been in the middle of the line made it inside.
The film’s star-studded cast includes Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, with Tom Waits in a small role and a cameo by Michael Pitt. Movies with all-star casts tend to disappoint: too many leading actors can overwhelm a film, and the central character can get lost among all the big names. That’s not the case with “Seven Psychopaths.”
In many ways, the film is reminiscent of “Pulp Fiction” (1994), Quentin Tarantino’s low-budget indy that was cast mostly with leading actors. Like “Pulp Fiction,” “Seven Psychopaths” works in a dark, comedic and gritty way.
The film is writer/director Martin McDonagh’s second feature. His first, the critically acclaimed “In Bruges” (2008), also starred Farrell, whose performance earned him a Golden Globe Award for best actor in a musical or comedy. McDonagh received a BAFTA Award for best original screenplay.
Set in Los Angeles, “Seven Psychopaths” does an excellent job of portraying the city from a local’s perspective. McDonagh’s shooting locations are not touristy or overused. There’s an authenticity to the film that is brought together by the scenes in Echo Park; the steep, short streets, the downtown skyline providing a backdrop to many shots, the rooftop occupied by people who make you wonder what they’re doing drinking on a rooftop in the middle of a weekday.
As the title implies, the film is about seven psychopaths, but that may be a bit misleading. These psychopaths aren’t at all like the violent, drug-addled and mostly opportunistic characters in “Pulp Fiction.” McDonagh’s characters have more depth; they’re psychopaths with a benevolent bend. Their motivations for doing the things they do are sincere and touching.
There’s a mystique to these characters, as well. As in “In Bruges,” they have only first names, and McDonagh slowly exposes their pasts to shed light on their present. The audience is constantly surprised by their abnormal, funny, violent behavior. This is no kids’ movie, but it’s certainly not a snuff film, either.
Marty (Farrell), an alcoholic in denial and a successful screenwriter with writer’s block, is having trouble coming up with a good idea for his next screenplay. His best friend, the cooly weird dog-snatcher Billy (Rockwell), desperately wants to help him with both issues.
Farrell and Rockwell have good onscreen chemistry and are without a doubt the funniest pairing in the film. Complementing Billy — but really the entire film — is Hans (Walken), Billy’s pacifist dog-snatching cohort. It’s impossible to imagine a film in which Walken would not be good, and “Psychopaths” certainly benefits from his inimitable style.
Then there’s Charlie (Harrelson), the film’s antagonist, who makes a living as a pimp. His dog, Bonny, a Shih Tzu, is the force that pulls all the psychopaths together. Charlie is determined to find Billy and Hans, kill them and take Bonny back, and he will stop at nothing to do it — not even the death of his girlfriend.
Farrell doesn’t typically show a lot of emotional range in the characters he plays, but there’s certainly a lot of range in the types character he plays. He’s a good actor, but not the best, and his performance is rather flat due to his mono-emotional style. He is, however, entertaining enough to keep the audience interested.
Rockwell plays typical Rockwell: he’s mysterious and goofy, but his performance is reminiscent of “Matchstick Men” (2003), in which he played a similar role as a con artist.
Harrelson is always awesome to watch. His portrayal of a white pimp in LA is tough, edgy and funny, but when does Harrelson not possess those qualities? The best performance is Walken’s. His character, the mysterious Hans, is crucial to the plot.
The film’s plot traces the jagged lines of Hans’ mysterious past. His back story gives the film an undertone of vindication and salvation, and also of redemption for the story and some of its characters.
Hans is an adamant pacifist, existing with ease among the criminally insane characters who dot his life. His role is to provide a counterbalance to the other six psychopaths, who default to violence when attempting to solve their problems.
The significance of Hans’ role as a pacifist eventually forces the audience up to his level, to consider the story’s key message: the duality of peace and conflict, and the bloodshed over something as small as Bonny.
McDonagh goes further, however, with a subplot about a former Viet Cong warrior who travels to the United States to seek revenge. Just when he is about to commit an act of terrorism, he’s unexpectedly enlightened.
These themes implore us as a society to ask ourselves, when is enough enough? Sometimes audiences need to be reminded of such simple ideas.