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Spiritual side of ‘Seven Psychopaths’

Published: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 12:00 p.m. CST

(MCT) — There’s nothing quite like the love between a man and his dog. Especially when that guy is a gangster and a certifiable whack job. And the canine is ... well, a shih tzu. And missing.

That’s the setup for Academy Award-winning writer-director Martin McDonagh’s new film, “Seven Psychopaths,” which stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson, and hits theaters Friday.

Harrelson plays Charlie, the psycho with the pooch fixation, relentlessly pursuing dognappers Billy and Hans (Rockwell and Walken), and Marty (Farrell), an alcoholic screenwriter swept up in the chaos who just happens to be writing a script called ... “Seven Psychopaths.”

McDonagh, like his alter ego Marty in the film, doesn’t want this to be just another shoot-’em-up flick about guys with guns. Granted, the cast is mostly guys. With guns. And OK, there’s lots of Sam Peckinpah-style shooting going on. Yet he somehow manages to insert unexpected discussions of Buddhism, heaven, hell, love ... even Gandhi.

“Can you have a film about gangsters and guns and still have it be about something more interesting, more ... spiritual, even?” McDonagh asked himself. “Can the two coexist in one big Hollywood film? That was, I guess, the dare to myself.”

And still be funny, mind you. Before his characters shoot a gut, they bust one. “It’s almost like a new genre,” says Rockwell. “A dramedy with tongue-in-cheek moments of violence. As Chris Walken says, it’s violent, but it’s sort of Wile E. Coyote violence.”

Think “Grosse Point Blank” or “Pulp Fiction.” Or “In Bruges,” McDonagh’s previous, critically acclaimed feature film, about a pair of oddball hit men (Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) on the lam in Belgium.

“I guess it’s the way I look at the world,” says McDonagh. “I see all the war, the horror — you’d go mad if you couldn’t laugh at the absurdity of it all. But it’s not just through sensitive literary works that we can question violence and war and so forth. You can do it in comedy. Maybe it’s more effective that way. Not to get too heavy or anything.”

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