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This article was published February 1, 2013 at 2:53 a.m.


Charlie (Woody Harrelson) is a crime boss pushed to the edge when his beloved pet is dognapped in Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths.

— Martin McDonagh Seven Psychopaths R, 109 minutes

It’s promoted as a comedy, but before it hit the big screen, nobody hinted at the dark and very complicated side of Seven Psychopaths.

The trailer, with a goofily defiant Christopher Walken sassing a confused guy with a big gun, suggests a wacky crime caper. It’s much bleaker than that in telling the story of a blocked screenwriter in Los Angeles with a drinking problem (Colin Farrell), whose seemingly ridiculous friends (in particular Sam Rockwell) go around kidnapping people’s dogs and pretending they found them, usually resulting in a handsome reward.

Turns out the friends aren’t all that ridiculous. Although they often exchange snarky banter and get themselves into funny fixes, they’re actually quite desperate, and so is the ill-tempered and extravagantly violent gangster (Woody Harrelson) whose insanely adored Shih Tzu, Bonny, has disappeared.

The differences between the gangster and the dognappers - which boil down to who has the most, or the least, to lose - culminate in what begins as a philosophical fight to the finish at California’s Joshua Tree National Monument and ends up … well, you can figure it out.

“Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh doesn’t make movies; they’re more like balancing acts,” says our critic Dan Lybarger. “With In Bruges [McDonagh’s acclaimed 2008 comedy drama, also starring Farrell] and his latest, Seven Psychopaths, McDonagh achieves some logical and narrative leaps and contortions that would make Cirque de Soleil envious. On the surface, McDonagh appears to be telling a conventional crime yarn with wittier dialogue. After a couple of minutes, however, Seven Psychopaths goes off the rails and never returns. Not that it should.”

Other recent Blu-ray releases:

Compliance (R, 90 minutes) This quietly insidious drama gets its suspense from a creepy story of how easily people can be manipulated by someone they believe has authority over them. Set in a fast-food restaurant, it focuses on a series of abuses and degradation heaped upon a worker named Becky (Dreama Walker) by her harried boss Sandra (Ann Dowd) and coworkers, all orchestrated by a caller who, claiming to be a police officer, insists Becky stole money from a customer. “Confining extremes of human behavior to a single drab room, Compliance is a slow motion punch to the groin,”says critic Jeannette Catsoulis in The New York Times. “As such, it’s fitting that one of our first sights is a large ‘No’ stenciled in the parking lot of a fast-food joint in suburban Ohio: as the film progresses, the word becomes a silent mantra for viewers who can’t quite believe what they’re seeing.”

Hotel Transylvania (PG, 91 minutes) A computer animated comedy in which Count Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) invites a host of renowned characters to his lavish monster getaway hotel to celebrate his daughter’s 118th birthday (and you thought human teenagers took a long time to grow up!). Then an ordinary backpacker (voice of Andy Samberg) shows up, causing romantic complications. Despite mixed reviews, the film, released Sept. 28, set a new record for the highest grossing September opening weekend ever by earning a total of $308 million on a budget of $85 million. “Adam Sandler ordinarily sleepwalks through his live-action film roles,” says critic Jon Niccum in the Kansas City Star. “So it’s amusing that he delivers his liveliest performance in years as a member of the undead.” With the voices of Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Cee-Lo Green, Steve Buscemi, Jon Lovitz.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (not rated, 75 minutes) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this black-and-white 1934 thriller, now on Blu-ray, follows the trauma of a British couple who meet a fellow traveler while on vacation in Switzerland. The man is soon afterward assassinated as a French spy - but not before passing the couple vital information to be delivered to the British consul, which doesn’t sit well with the assassins. With Peter Lorre. “The Man Who Knew Too Much is an archetype of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller,” according to The Complete Films of Alfred Hitchcock by Richard A. Harris and Michael S. Lasky. “It was his favorite type of story, which may explain why he remade the film in 1956 [a lusher, lengthier version starring James Stewart and Doris Day]. The debate continues as to which is a better version, but both hold up equally well. No comparisons are really necessary.”

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 02/01/2013

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