By Chaz Lipp

I feel like I’m on some kind of mission to review Seven Psychopaths as many times as possible. I raved about it right here after seeing it in theaters last October. And recently I sang the praises of Martin McDonagh’s extremely entertaining, engrossing crime comedy on The Morton Report and Blogcritics.

That’s what happens I guess when I’m so anxious to spread the word about a movie I feel was unjustly overlooked in theaters. I think it was a difficult movie to market, as evidenced by a trailer that left me assuming Psychopaths was just another Quentin Tarantino knockoff featuring an all-star cast of tough guys spouting elaborate dialogue while shooting guns. Writer-director Martin McDonagh certainly seems wear his Tarantino influence on his sleeve, but Psychopaths is no imitation. In fact, the unpredictable nature of the plot reminded me of the giddy rush I felt when first seeing Pulp Fiction—without feeling like I watching an attempt to make such a movie.

In fact, Psychopathsopens with a pair of hitmen casually discussing the nature of their next target. In an interview I read online, McDonagh was asked about whether he had any concern about including such a seemingly direct reference to the patented Tarantino style. His reply was direct and accurate, “I guess I don’t really think about it in those terms because there were plenty of people doing it before Tarantino too. It just seems like he started it.” Without getting into spoilers—even minor ones, because this film works best the less you know about it—McDonagh quickly establishes that his film will be taking a different direction.

So enough about the Tarantino influence, I could go on just as long about the Charlie Kaufman influence. Psychopaths is just as meta as Adaptationfrom a decade ago and also about the process of writing a screenplay. But McDonagh already established himself as his own man in 2008 with In Bruges and that streak of ingenuity continues full force with Psychopaths. Using the central character of screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) as his everyman, McDonagh plays with the conventions of storytelling, allowing us to see Marty’s creative process unfold in a very literal way. His current project shares the title of film we’re watching, but that title is all he has. His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) has given him some very good ideas of who these fictitious psychos should be—directly and indirectly, as Marty’s drinking problem has led him to believe some overheard anecdotes are products of his own imagination.

Meanwhile, running parallel to Marty and Billy’s evolving screenwriting collaboration is Billy’s real job: dognapping. He and Hans (Christopher Walken) snatch pet dogs away from unsuspecting owners, holding them hostage until reward signs begin to be posted. Then they collect said rewards after returning the pets to their rightful owners unharmed. It’s a fairly lucrative operation until they snatch local crime figure Charlie’s (Woody Harrelson) Shih Tzu, Bonny. If Charlie loves anything unconditionally in his violent, amoral world, it’s Bonny. Naturally he makes life very uncomfortable for Billy and Hans.

And, as I have said in my previous reviews of this film, that’s all you need to know about the actual plot. If you find yourself the least bit intrigued by the uniformly excellent cast and offbeat setup, seek out this film ASAP. It’s funny as heck, extremely violent (in a variety of ways—sometimes satirical, sometimes not), but above all creatively inspired.

The Blu-ray offers a sensationally detailed image, faithfully reproducing the slightly stylized cinematography by Ben Davis. Colors are intentionally pushed to overly vivid saturation levels at times, while close-ups seem intended to present the actors in warts-and-all realism. The 1080p transfer allows us to see all this with great clarity. It always looks like a movie, too, which it absolutely should considering Davis shot on 35mm film. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is sturdy and free of problems. The gunshots resonate with deep, bass-y eruptions. Despite the criminals-with-guns theme of Seven Psychopaths, the soundtrack is a reasonably subdued affair with an emphasis on dialogue.

There are a few very short promotional featurettes included, but honestly none of them is worth even mentioning outside of “Seven Psychocats” (which uses felines to recreate the film’s theatrical trailer). I’m not sure why there weren’t any real features added to this release. Bizarrely, an extended scene turned up online (click here to see it) but no deleted footage is on the Blu-ray. I’ve always been of the mindset that a considerable amount of what passes for “bonus” materials isn’t really that much of a bonus in reality. But it was disappointing to not see anything of even moderate value turn up here. However, don’t let that deter you from seeing Seven Psychopaths.

(Photos: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Chaz Lipp

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