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Originally published Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 12:03 AM

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'Seven Psychopaths': Crime comedy is a little too bloody clever

A review of "Seven Psychopaths,' a movie about the making of a movie with the same name as the actual movie. It's so self-referential and self-impressed with its own cleverness, as it comments archly on movie clichés and then indulges in them, that it comes off as a big inside joke. And not a very funny one at that.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

'Seven Psychopaths,' with Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish. Directed by Martin McDonagh, from a screenplay by McDonagh. 109 minutes. Rated R for violence, language, sexual situations, nudity. Several theaters.

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Martin McDonagh, the writer-director of "Seven Psychopaths," appears to have had a lot of fun making it. Maybe too much fun for the picture's own good.

Kindly follow along: "Seven Psychopaths" is a movie about the writing of a movie called "Seven Psychopaths." Its lead character is a screenwriter, like McDonagh, and he shares the same first name with the real-life writer guy.

In the movie, Martin, or Marty, as he goes by, is a heavy-drinking Irishman played by Colin Farrell. The real-life Farrell, an Irishman, was a notorious tippler in his time, though has since reportedly cleaned up his act.

As he works on his screenplay, Marty claims he wants to make a nonviolent movie about violence. He wants it to be about peace and love. He doesn't want any shootouts in it, prompting a pal to mock him: No shootouts? What? It's going to be a French movie? No worries. In the movie we see, there are lots of extremely bloody shootouts.

Another pal tells him he's terrible at writing women characters. They're not around long. "They all get shot or stabbed in the first five minutes," this pal observes. The women in McDonagh's movie fare only slightly better than that.

It's all so self-referential, so self-impressed with its own cleverness, as it comments archly on movie clichés and then indulges in them, that it comes off as a big inside joke. Though one not nearly as funny as McDonagh might have wished. Coming on the heels of his highly praised 2008 directorial debut, the darkly quirky hit-men-on-the-lam character study "In Bruges," it's a disappointing fizzle.

The cast is a Who's Who of actors known for playing characters who are archetypically strange: Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton, Woody Harrelson. Waits plays a weirdo who strokes a white bunny while telling tales of his days as a serial killer of serial killers. Harrelson's character is a homicidal maniac intent on offing the person who dognapped his beloved shih tzu. Walken is a preternaturally calm dude with a stitched-up slashed throat. And so on.

McDonagh puts them up on the screen and let's them go at it. On my mark: 3, 2, 1 ... Weirdness!

As in, weirdness for weirdness' own odd sake.

Soren Andersen:

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