Seven Psychopaths

Among a strong cast, Sam Rockwell is a standout in “Seven Psychopaths.” It’s not that the performances from Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Colin Farrell were lacking. They’re all good, but Rockwell’s character has the most to work with.

“Seven Psychopaths” is an ultraviolent comedy. As with “Pulp Fiction” and similar films, the audience goes from repulsion to chuckles (or vice versa) in seconds. Some of its elements are serious. We see innocent people meet violent ends. But soon after, absurd events or remarks bring us right back to the funny.

Farrell plays an alcoholic screenwriter in L.A. who has an idea for a movie called “Seven Psychopaths,” but just can’t get started. Walken and Rockwell are dog kidnappers who then respond to “lost dog” postings to collect rewards. Harrelson is a hood whose Shih Tzu, Bonny, is taken.

Walken and Rockwell provide Farrell with ideas for the movie’s plot—the one he’s writing, that is. Some of the elements discussed for that screenplay do turn up in the movie we’re watching. The trio takes refuge in the desert after Rockwell kills his girlfriend (who is also Woody’s girlfriend). Woody, meanwhile, wants his dog back.

Among the supporting cast is Tom Waits as a psychopath who shares his personal story with Farrell about the killing he’s done. Gabourey “Precious” Sidibe appears briefly as Woody’s careless dog walker.

“Seven Psychopaths” benefits from the strong quartet of leads, each of whom has been in absurd comedies before. Each man has a commanding screen presence and, as a group, they help the movie over a bumpy section or two.

Worth noting are a couple of fantasy sequences (involving a graveyard shootout and a Vietnamese holy man) that add compelling action.

Writer/director Martin MacDonagh (who also wrote and directed “In Bruges” in ’08) has put together an totally entertaining movie. Its violence makes it off-limits for the squeamish, but for the rest of us, it’s fun.

 

 

 

 

Men in Black 3

If you were to be flashed with a neuralizer and made to forget the first two MIB movies, you’d love MIB 3. But compared to the other two, this action comedy lacks just a bit of the magic.

Have we missed you, Will Smith? Yes. After being MIA for over three years, he is back on the big screen, bringing all the charisma that has made him a star. He’s funny and has attitude.

The movie’s plot involves time travel back to 1969 and gives us Josh Brolin as the younger, less jaded, version of Tommy Lee Jones’ character, K. (Did Jones loop some of Brolin’s dialogue? Because the vocal timbre and inflections are dead on.)

The 60’s flashback is fun and, interestingly, addresses racial behaviors that were quite different from those of today. Will Smith’s character J is pulled over by NYC cops who wonder why a black man would be wearing such a nice suit and driving a luxury convertible.

Also, interestingly, MIB 3 reprises the shot in the first MIB that had St. Louis native Bernard Gilkey, then a Met, getting hit in the head with a fly ball. In MIB 3, the shot of an outfielder getting plunked signals the mid-season ’69 Mets ineptitude that somehow transitioned to a World Series title in October.

J and K face off against evil alien Boris the Animal (who always reminds them that his name is now “just Boris”) at Cape Kennedy where Apollo astronauts are about to be launched for the moon. The battle atop the missile support beams is an impressive sequence—within a notch of two of Cruise’s Dubai scenes in MI 4.

As in the two previous MIB’s, the aliens are the result of some clever imaginations, creative costumers and hard-working special effects crews.

Is MIB 3 satisfying? Yes. Will it blow you away? No. Following the first two MIB’s and, especially in the wake of the effects-laden “The Avengers,” MIB 3 may need good WOM to become a major hit. (That’s word of mouth.) The popularity of Will Smith and the two earlier MIB’s will fill theaters this first weekend. Stay tuned to see what happens beyond May.

“21 Jump Street”—((Fun Times at Sagan High))

“21 Jump Street” is funny and fun. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are a worthy combo because of the many contrasts they bring to their pairing. And, because both have good comedy chops.

The characters played by the two were high school classmates: Tatum, the good-looking dumb jock, and Hill, the less attractive smart nerd. When they find themselves classmates at police academy, Hill shares his smarts with Tatum and Tatum helps Hill get fit.

They become teammates on the force, but they make mistakes and are sent to 21 Jump Street. At that address is a Korean Christian church, in which Ice Cube commands cops on undercover assignments. Tatum and Hill are sent out as high school students in an effort to bust a drug ring. (Never mind that they are 30 and 28, respectively, in real life.)

Adding to the absurdity is the mixed-up identity plot device, through which Tatum is assigned to egghead classes and Hill is sent to run on the track team.

When they finally locate the drug connection at school, he will only sell them the tabs if they will ingest the drug right then. The ensuing drug trip provides some goofy fun.

Each has romantic inclinations at school. Hill has eyes for a cute drama club classmate, who he ends up inviting to the prom. Tatum has the hots for his science teacher, played by St. Louis’s Ellie Kemper. The Tatum-Kemper thing merely smolders, until the closing credits. (Do stick around after THE END.)

“21 Jump Street” has three good chase scenes, including the first one with our two rookie cops on bicycles. There’s a fair amount of violence and a heaping helping of R-rated language.

It has been reported for almost a year that a megastar who kicked off his career on the old “21 Jump Street” TV show has a cameo in the movie. Without sharing details, I will just say I love the way the filmmakers presented it.

Could Tatum and Hill have a future together in action comedies? If “21” hits the jackpot, bet on it.