Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Seven Psychopaths

Year 7, Day 251 - 9/8/15 - Movie #2,143

BEFORE: I faced down a terrible dilemma once again - should I stick with the planned chain that's going to get me to the end, albeit with some imperfect linking, or should I scrap the plan and try to start a new course, which might improve my linking, and could either help or hurt me form chains next year?  There's no way to know - and while I'm happy right now with my plans for late January, February and early March, that doesn't help me with deciding where to start on Jan. 1, as I can't seem to get the chain to extend back that far from Feb. 1.  

Plus, there were so many linking possibilities from "The Way, Way Back" - should I follow the Steve Carell link and watch "Despicable Me 2", or the Maya Rudolph link to "Big Hero 6", which would lead me into animated films?  Should I follow it with "Tammy", recently taped off cable, which shares three actors, Toni Collette, Allison Janney and Nat Faxon?  This would keep the comedy chain going, but it seems that would lead me to "St. Vincent", then to "Dumb & Dumber To", and then I'd hit a dead end.  Rob Corddry from "The Way, Way Back" is also in THREE films on my watchlist, but two are romances, the other is "Muppets Most Wanted", and the fourth is sort of a dead end too - maybe I should just hold out for "Hot Tub Time Machine 2", which he's in, and make a chain with that.  

This is where I start to go a little mad - with 10-20 actors (at least) in every film, you'd think the linking possibilities would be endless.  And sometimes it does seem like there are too many, like tonight, but other times it seems there are no paths to follow at all.  I think I'm going to stick with my original plan, even though it leads to some indirect linking tomorrow, but it's already lined up with the calendar, and if I stick to the plan, I'm going to hit Halloween, Hanukkah and Christmas spot on, even if I take time off for New York Comic Con.  I really shouldn't mess with the chain any more, because I may never get back on that track if I start changing things up now.  So Sam Rockwell carries over from "The Way, Way Back".

THE PLOT: A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster's beloved Shih Tzu.

AFTER: I found this to be a terrible film, I didn't really get it at all, and the parts that I did understand, I didn't like.  But it's not enough for me to just SAY it's a terrible film, I have to explain why.  

First off, there's way too much about the two lead characters working on their screenplay, and that always bugs me.  It's the last refuge of a writer with no ideas to write a screenplay about people writing a screenplay, who also are having trouble coming up with ideas.  (Gee, you looked in the mirror and wrote about yourself, congratulations.)  It's only slightly better to show a writer typing furiously, or writing something out longhand, full of ideas, but that also is, in my opinion, a cheap substitute for action rather than action itself.  But if I never see another film with a writer staring at a blank piece of paper, that would be fine with me.  

What's almost as bad is having to hear writers "workshopping" their ideas by telling them over and over to other people, which is what takes place here.  Hey, what if we write about it THIS way?  Hey, wouldn't this situation we're in make a great story?  What if the guy was short instead of tall?  Ho hum, wake me when it's over.  

Which brings me to my second issue - the characters are always so in the moment, and thinking about how their situation could be applied to movie ideas, that this film ended up being way too self-referential.  Whenever they say things like, "Hey, wouldn't this canyon be a great place for a movie shoot-out?" it falls just one step shy of them breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging that they are, in fact, characters in a film.   Plus, you can obviously tell that there's going to be a shoot-out in that canyon later on - it's another cheap way of telegraphing instead of foreshadowing.  

Next issue, who are the seven psychopaths?  I mean, that's what the screenplay-within-the-film is going to be about, but why do there have to be seven?  And there are times where the 7 are counted out with on-screen text (similar to the sex acts being counted off in "The To Do List"), but sometimes they're the real characters in the film, and sometimes they're the fictional characters in the screenplay.  So where do I start counting, and when should I stop?  And how can Psychopath #7 be the same as Psychopath #1? Did I miss something, or are they cheating on the count?

It's tempting to look at the poster and say, Hmm, there are seven people on it, those must be the seven psychopaths, right?  Umm, no, because two of those people are women - not to say that women CAN'T be psychopaths, but they just aren't in this film, so I'm hard-pressed to figure out who the seven are.  

All of this is my way of saying that this film is way too confusing.  And they use the word "psychopath" so liberally that by the end of the film, it nearly ceases to have any meaning at all.  It certainly should NOT be used as a motivation for any character's action (See also: "American Psycho").  Why did he kill that guy?  Oh, because he's a psychopath?  Not enough, you've got to give me more instead of constantly leaning on that word as a crutch.  You can't just say WHAT he is, you've got to say WHY.  

It's a shame, really, because there were a lot of talented actors appearing in this film, and their talents were wasted because they just weren't given anything to DO except jaw about a screenplay that hasn't been written yet.  Even the crime boss is a poorly fleshed-out character - what sort of criminal is he?  Oh, he "does crime"?  Again, it's not enough.  The only thing I ended up knowing about him was that he loved his dog more than anything, but that's like reducing him to a cartoony Bond villain who just sits in a chair and pets his cat.  

Time and time again, the characters in this film complain about events, pointing out that they're just not interesting enough to fill up a movie.  Yeah, I happen to know that exact feeling.  It figures, out of all the directions I could have gone after "The Way, Way Back", I think I may have picked the worst possible one.

Also starring Colin Farrell (last seen in "Saving Mr. Banks"), Woody Harrelson (last seen in "Play It to the Bone"), Christopher Walken (last seen in "Heaven's Gate"), Abbie Cornish (last seen in "Limitless"), Harry Dean Stanton (last seen in "The Wrong Man"), Kevin Corrigan (last seen in "Slums of Beverly Hills"), Zeljko Ivanek (last seen in "The Bourne Legacy"), Gabourey Sidibe (last seen in "Precious"), Lynda Bright Clay, Olga Kurylenko, Tom Waits.

RATING: 2 out of 10 white rabbits

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