Seven Psychopaths, the follow-up by writer/ director Martin McDonagh to his cult hit In Bruges, has some clever moments, but doesn’t quite work as a whole. Colin Farrell plays a screenwriter struggling with writer’s block over his new screenplay, to be titled Seven Psychopaths. Meanwhile, his best friend (Sam Rockwell) is running a dognapping scheme where he and his partner (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs, then return them a few days later to collect the reward. Things get complicated when they kidnap the dog of a vicious mobster (Woody Harrelson). There’s some funny digressions on the nature of storytelling and movie violence, but it doesn’t cohere in a way a superior “meta” film like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang does. Seven Psychopaths is also a little in love with its own ugliness at times (a flaw it shares with In Bruges). On the positive side, the film gives Walken his best role in years. It’s not a stretch for him, but it gives him enough to do that it reminds viewers why he is one of the best tough guys in cinema history. A low-key confrontation in a waiting room between Walken and Harrelson is a masterpiece of quiet menace.
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*** out of **** Ever since 1973's The Sting, it is almost impossible to make a good movie about con men, because you just know that the story is one big ruse and nothing in the film, from plot points to characters' emotions, is to be trusted. Focus, however, doesn't cheat too...
** out of **** The title of the thriller The Lazarus Effect refers to the biblical Lazarus of Bethany who was brought back to life by Jesus. In the film, a group of medical researchers, fronted by Zoe (Olivia Wilde) and her fiancé Frank (Mark Duplass), follow in the footsteps of Doctor Herbert West and attempt to reanimate the dead. Their reasoning for bringing the dead back to life – for a limited time – is so that...
*** and 1/2 out of **** Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises, La Vie en Rose) was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for the Belgian film Two Days, One Night. It’s an outstanding performance in an exceptional movie. Written and directed by the Dardenne Brothers, the film’s story centers around Sandra (Cotillard), a young mother in Belgium recovering from a bout of clinical depression. It doesn’t help her...