Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, 2012's Seven Psychopaths tells the unlikely story of a man named Marty (Colin Farrell), hoping against hope that one day he'll finish this script he's been working on forever and get a movie made. The name of the script? Seven Psychopaths; and Marty is taking inspiration from some unusual sources. Sadly, the story just isn't coming together. He's got the title down pat and figured out a few characters but remains unsure what exactly he should do with them. The fact that he likes to drink... a lot... probably isn't helping matters much. As far as that inspiration goes, though, thanks to his pal Billy (Sam Rockwell), he's making a bit of progress. See, Billy works as a dog kidnapper - he goes out and steals canine companions from rich folk and holds them for ransom. As such, Billy has dealt with some odd people, and he's more than happy to help Marty with his script.
Enter Hans (Christopher Walken), Billy's partner in crime. He and Billy kidnap a Shih Tzu named Connie that is owned by Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a gangster with a penchant for violence who values his dog more than any human life. When Charlie heads out on the hunt to get his dog back, Marty winds up running alongside Billy and Hans out into the middle of nowhere to hide out until they can figure out what to do. Charlie, however, is hot on their trail and not about to give up easily. As they wait him out, Hans and Billy help Marty with his script in some rather unusual ways.
Seven Psychopaths is a little self aware to be sure, but it never winks to the camera and instead plays things completely straight - the movie is all the better for it. The casting here is strong throughout. Farrell uses his leading man charisma well here and even if he's a bit of a drunken slacker who mistreats his girlfriend, we can't help but like him. Rockwell excels as Billy, the friend who is never short on opinion and who rarely shuts up but who obviously means well and again, we like him. Throw in a scene stealing Christopher Walken and an equally impressive turn from Harrelson as the bad buy and you couldn't' ask for four better primary players to act out a story like this one. On top of that, we get really strong supporting work from quirky but great Tom Waits, the beautiful Abbie Cornish, a criminally underrated Long Nguyen, the immortally weird Harry Dean Stanton, perfectly cast everyman Kevin Corrigan and the truly gorgeous Olga Kurylenko.
Just as impressive and in some ways more important than the cast, however, is McDonagh's script, which does a remarkable job of blending 'real life' with envisioned moments from what Marty or Billy or Hans may be trying to incorporate into the script at any given time. It's sort of a 'movie within a movie' concept taken to a ridiculous extreme but here it works well, it feels fresh and not recycled and takes the movie in directions both exciting and often hilarious. The story also does interesting things with its use of violence. One of the credos by which Marty is writing his script is that he wants to do something different, he wants to take the movie away from violence and have his characters solve their problems by talking things out. Of course, as he's explaining all of this to Billy and Hans, Charlie and his men, armed to the teeth, are hunting them down with the explicit intent of putting bullets in their heads. As the two worlds in the movie begin to collide, Marty winds up understandably confused and more than a little bit upset by what he sees, but it's completely in keeping with the way in which his character has been established up to this point in the film.
If it all sounds kind of Tarantino-ish, you could probably make that connection but there's a lot more of a Coen Brothers vibe here than anything else. It's all very clever, sometimes fairly subtle and other times bloody as Hell, but it's never quite what you think it will be. The movie is loaded with surprises that work, never feel gimmicky, and which propel a smartly written narrative delivered by a talented cast. Here's hoping McDonagh is able to keep up this caliber of filmmaking. With only two features to his credit he's already proven himself a serious talent.
Seven Psychopaths debuts on Blu-ray in a beautiful looking 2.40.1 widescreen AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that is pretty much a reference quality effort on the part of Sony. Texture and detail are impressive right from the start, you'll notice every line in every actor's face and every fabric in their clothing - you'll even make out some of the matting in a dog's fur here and there. Color reproduction leans towards the slightly hot side of things, but this is obviously in keeping with how the movie was supposed to look. There are no issues with compression artifacts nor are there any problems with noise reduction, filtering or edge enhancement. Light film grain is present throughout the movie but there aren't any issues with actual print damage here and the end result is very, very impressive - a wonderfully detailed and very colorful presentation of a sharp looking film.
Also very impressive is the English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on this disc. While long stretches of the movie are more dialogue intensive attentive listeners will notice that even in these scenes there are interesting bits and pieces audible in the backgrounds. Dialogue stays crisp and clean and clear and surround activity is well directed and properly balanced. The more action intensive scenes, like the shoot outs, benefit the most from the lossless track, with each gunshot packing a nice, solid punch and demonstrating some good, strong bass. As you'd expect from a brand new movie like this, there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion at all, and if this isn't the most action intensive track through and through, it's a damn good one regardless. There are no alternate language options here but there are removable subtitles provided in English SDH, English and Spanish.
There really isn't much here in terms of extras, but let's go over what is offered - first up is a two and a half minute featurette entitled Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths which puts together some brief cast and crew interviews that discuss the making of the movie in brief. It's clip heavy and lacking much in the way of actual depth or substance. Colin Farrell Is Marty gives the film's leding man one and a half minutes to discuss his character, while Woody Harrelson Is Charlie lets the lead supporting actor do the same. The two minute long Crazy Locations is really just a quick look at some of the locations used, mostly towards the end of the movie, while Seven Psychocats is a ninety second trailer for the film remade with cats instead of actors. Weird. Layers is one minute of clips from the movie. Outside of that? Trailers for a few unrelated Sony properties, animated menus and chapter selection. Additionally this release comes with a digital copy of the movie too.
Seven Psychopaths is, above all things, fun. It's a wildly entertaining film that is as creative as it is clever and it does a great job of mixing up action and humor in some very unusual but completely effective ways. Throw in some nice style, impressive performances from all involved and a pretty sound track and the movie comes up a winner. Sony's Blu-ray is light on extras but looks and sounds excellent, so despite the absence of much in the way of supplements, the disc still comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.