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Seven Psychopaths

Few directors can claim to have their own genre, although Quentin Tarantino is one of them.  Since his break-out movie ‘Reservoir Dogs’, his story-telling style featuring smooth criminals trading rapid-fire quips has influenced many.  ‘Seven Psychopaths’ is the latest, as the team who created the fantastic 2008 movie ‘In Bruges’ deliver another bloodily accomplished production.

 

Desperate to finish his screenplay ‘Seven Psychopaths’ struggling writer Marty (Colin Farrell) searches for inspiration.  This arrives when his friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) hatches a money-making scheme.  Teaming with Hans (Christopher Walken), Billy kidnaps the beloved dog of gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson).  All hell breaks loose as Charlie does what he can to catch those responsible.  With guns, miscreants and valuable pooches at play, Marty’s well of ideas is about to become full.

 

‘Seven Psychopaths’ effectively shows how the smallest of incidents can grow into a mega-storm.  This is usually how crime movies begin with its bunch of violent miscreants doing anything to stay ahead. That it manages to be exciting and funny is a testament to those involved.  Whilst running out of puff towards the end, the quirky touches keep one alert.  You never know who is next to go in this strange quagmire with some snazzy asides hiding some of the character’s dark ways.

 

The cast have fun conveying the increasingly frantic desperation of their roles.  Rockwell is the most successful in showing how his character’s troubled existence has a knock-on effect on those around him.  He, along with Farrell and the always engaging Walken, subtly ground their roles even as events spiral out of control.    This allows the humour to rise naturally without any of the forced nature diluting the tale’s impact.

 

Although Tarantino would find much that is familiar with ‘Seven Psychopaths’, it has enough of its own flavour making it stand out.  Gangsters seem to be all the rage these days with this entry successfully extending their rather dodgy reputations.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

 

The Master

After directing ‘There Will Be Blood’ to Oscar winning success, Paul Thomas Anderson’s next venture was eagerly awaited.  He doesn’t disappoint with ‘The Master’ another strong production.  Those who have followed his career since ‘Boogie Nights’ shouldn’t be surprised it features another assortment of unusual characters.  Many are brought vividly to life with Anderson’s talent in weaving long narratives into compelling movies still intact.

 

Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sailor returning home after active duty.  Traumatised by the horrors witnessed during World War 2, he seeks some spiritual guidance.  This he finds when he meets Lancaster (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  A charismatic leader of a cult called ‘The Cause’, Lancaster sees Freddie’s potential as a star recruit.  Becoming deeply involved in their activities, Freddie slowly discovers the effect the power of persuasion has on willing followers.

 

Those who saw Anderson’s earlier work ‘Magnolia’ may experience déjà vu.  Just as infuriating, complex and yet engaging ‘The Master borrows from it in terms of mood.  The acting is top-notch as is the attention to detail although the story is filled with such emotionally cold people it’s difficult emphasising with them.  Phoenix’s character in particular is hard to like as his mumbling pessimist makes you almost feel sorry for the cult who initially embrace him.

 

Despite these misgivings, the themes ‘The Master’ tackles are interesting.  How lack of self-esteem and desperation makes someone go against their nature is skilfully conveyed.  This is apparent in the scenes between Freddie and Lancaster – two people seemingly polar opposites and yet the same.   The way they test each other’s patience is well expressed even if watching some of their by-play is occasionally hard going.

 

Although very well acted with some striking cinematography, ‘The Master’ isn’t Anderson’s best work.  It repeats itself a little too much with certain sequences adding little to the overall arc.  Even lower-tier Anderson is better than other productions however with his willingness to challenge his audience’s thinking always welcome.

 

Rating out of 10:  6