Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson
Director: Martin McDonagh (CERT 15, 110 minutes)
The plot: London-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh knocked our socks off with his debut feature In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell as a morose hitman stuck in the Belgian town. Now the director and star are back with this LA-set black comedy about struggling scriptwriter Marty (Farrell), whose life lurches into the dark terrain of his latest screenplay, Seven Psychopaths. That’s in no small part due to the influence of his actor/dog-thief pal Billy (Rockwell) and the latter’s partner-in-crime Hans (Walken), who incur the wrath of gangster Charlie (Harrelson) when they kidnap his Shih Tzu.
What’s right with it? The dialogue. Move over Tarantino; these days nobody writes scabrously funny male banter quite as cleverly as McDonagh. Reformed alcoholic Farrell is sly casting as beer-guzzling slacker Marty, although the film is well and truly stolen by Sam Rockwell, who has somehow reached 44 without ever achieving success commensurate with his talents.
What’s wrong with it? The banter isn’t the only element that recalls Tarantino: the whole milieu, including back stories for violent characters, feels a little derivative of the Kill Bill director. And the film’s own in-joke about the weakness of its females (thankless roles played by Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko) doesn’t quite get it off the hook.
Verdict: Our favourite movie about screenwriting remains the Charlie Kaufman-scripted Adaptation (rent it!), but let’s not quibble. Seven Psychopaths is smart, witty and elevated by a brilliant ensemble of male actors. For the squeamish, however take note: rated 15 for “strong bloody violence”. 4/5 @charlesgant
Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Emma Roberts
Director: Lee Toland Krieger (CERT 15, 92 minutes)
The plot: Celeste and Jesse (Jones and Samberg) have been a couple since their school days and, after six years of marriage, are still best friends who live in the same house and hang out together. Guess what? They’re getting divorced.
What’s right with it? The script is snappy and observant, allowing Jones and Samberg to create likeable but realistically flawed characters as the plot heads in unexpected directions.What’s wrong with it? Celeste and Jesse may be fun and likeable, but watching them wallow in self-obsessions isn’t so much fun.
Verdict: Witty and honest, this uneven film refuses to head for the usual tidy romcom ending, which lets its cast create characters that we really identify with. 3/5 @shadowsrich
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Jeremy Piven, Josh Bowman
Director: Tom Vaughan (CERT 12, 94 minutes)
The plot: Molly (Cyrus) is a tomboy private investigator who catches cheating spouses. But when she’s approached by an FBI agent (Piven), she’s given a ditzy makeover and sent to a university sorority to go, like, so undercover and protect one of the sisters from a baddie.
What’s right with it? The outfits, hot man (Bowman), and young “totes amazeballs” lingo will please her tween fans, and real-life BFF Kelly Osbourne is fun as Molly’s surly roommate.
What’s wrong with it? The FBI plot is clunky, and you’ll be rolling your eyes as the sorority sisters hang out in just their underwear.
Verdict: It’s a mix of Miss Congeniality and Mean Girls, but the unconvincing scrapes Molly gets herself into mean that it’s not as good as either. 3/5 @deborah_heat