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Seven Psychopaths: Star-Studded Crime Comedy
Following his successful breakthrough comedy-drama, In Bruges (2008), writer-director Martin McDonagh is reunited with Irish bad-boy, Collin Farrell, for another crack at dark comedy.
Seven Psychopaths follows struggling Irish screenwriter, Marty (Farrell), who is experiencing every writer's nightmare – a severe case of writer's block. So far, he's only got the working title for his next film project worked out – Seven Psychopaths – but, the rest of the story isn’t so forthcoming. With nothing but a few measly ideas scribbled on scraps of paper, Marty's personal hell soon sees the writer sinking deeper and deeper into anxiety and alcoholism.
He finds encouragement in his best-bud Billy (Rockwell), who along with his partner-in-crime, Hans (Walken), makes his living in the dog-pinching business. Unfortunately, stealing dogs from their wealthy owners – and later returning them for the reward money – goes awry when Billy nabs a dog belonging to murderous gangster, Charlie (Harrelson).
Before long, the fictional story of Seven Psychopaths – the one Marty has been struggling to bring to life – becomes real and the careworn writer soon begins to live right in the middle of his own story.
Set in the seedy Hollywood hills, before moving on to the Californian desert, Seven Psychopaths is presented as a film about making a film, when in actual fact, it's a film about not making a film; the obstacles to success are not overcome and there is no triumphant final act bringing all of the elements together. Although the story's unusual premise offers a few rather amusing moments, there isn’t much else to hold onto.
Seven Psychopaths also feels a little too self-conscious and restrained. McDonagh – just like his central character – has some serious struggles of his own; a lot of the sequences feel forced and after a banging start, the film loses momentum and withers away as it gets lost in its own self-referential pseudo-philosophy.
The film furthers its suffering by not taking full advantage of its star-studded Hollywood cast. Cameos from Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton are completely wasted and Rockwell's verbal diarrhoea is a little too much to take. On a positive note, Farrell has no problem in nailing the good-for-nothing drunk, while Harrelson and Walken deliver like the pros they are.
On the whole, Seven Psychopaths is meta-gangster film wannabe – if even that. Over-written and a little too aware of itself, the film never develops into anything more than an occasionally amusing mishmash. What starts of as an intricate narrative descends into absurdity very quickly.
She wakes up from her coma to a husband who she doesn’t remember and parents who are overjoyed that she’s forgotten about their dispute. While Paige’s parents try to bring her back to the way of life that she’d rebelled against, Leo tries to help her remember why she’d left all that behind in the first place. Fighting for a wife who doesn’t remember him and is a completely different person than the one he knew, Leo tries to get her to fall in love with him again.
The film rarely gets unbearably cheesy, setting it apart from your run of the mill Sparks adaptation. It gets mushy, emotional and sappy, but it’s more likely to make you smile than roll your eyes. Leo’s pain and heartbreak combined with Paige’s family’s delight at having their daughter back, gives the film a level of grit that keeps it from becoming overly cloying. However, the secret of the film’s success is the leads, who have great chemistry and manage to pass off some of the cheesiness as bearable.
While some may argue that originality is dead, no genre is more vulnerable to that notion than comedy, which has always been prevalent in Egyptian Ramadan TV. One only has to look to polarising TV personality and prankster, Ramez Galal.
Appearing for the fifth consecutive time on TV screens during Ramadan, Galal’s latest shenanigans present nothing new – in fact, one could argue that this year’s show, Ramez Wakel El Gaw, is one of the poorest yet; even the opening credits have come to be uniform. A grand orchestral intro makes way for nonsense music with nonsense lyrics. Galal – who lends his vocals to the opening credits – begins each episode in the same way, weaving in some banter at the expense of the celebrity that he’s about to prank.
The concept of the show is that each unsuspecting victim is summoned to a mystery business meeting in Dubai via plane. The prank? It's simple: convince the celebrity in question that the plane is experiencing engine failure and that they are about to die? Tasteless? Maybe. Unfunny? Almost certainly. Galal and co also pepper the celebrity’s ride with smaller, more infantile mini-pranks – serving strange-tasting coffee and spewing unpleasant odours in the plane.
As mentioned, the main prank itself is significantly weaker and cruder than that in previous series. In addition, episodes are shorter, while the show misses the opportunity in making the most of their guests – a sit-down and interview would give the show much more value, for examples. In fairness, however, the disguises and make-up that Galal uses during the pranks isn’t half-bad and there’s a certain guilty pleasure in seeing what he’ll look like in the next episode.
As always, the pay off in a show like this is how the celebrity responds to the revelation of the prank and this series has thus far seen some pretty angry and over-the-top reactions, with one particular episode featuring former belly-dancing star and actress, Lucy, requiring an inordinate amount of bleeping. Galal was even the victim of a pretty firm kicking at the hands of another unimpressed guest.
Galal shows have always received criticism, but viewing figures have always proven the popularity of them; like him or loathe him, people are always talking about him. This year, though, despite Paris Hilton featuring in an upcoming episode, there isn’t as much buzz; this is partly because of the emergence of other Ramadan prank shows, but could Egypt finally be tiring of his antics? Only time will tell.