You’ll be either relieved or disappointed to learn that there aren’t actually seven psychopaths in Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh’s hilarious skewering of Hollywood action tropes. It’s actually the title of a screenplay being (slowly) written by frustrated wannabe Marty (Colin Farrell), whose efforts are given a real-world assist by the moronic behavior of his roommate, Billy (Sam Rockwell), a struggling actor and successful dog thief. When Billy and his dognapping partner (Christopher Walken) snatch a Shih Tzu belonging to an exceptionally violent gangster (Woody Harrelson), life begins imitating art, and vice versa, as Billy in particular finds ways to engineer their predicament along whatever lines will best suit Marty’s script-in-progress. Billy even places a personal ad seeking deranged maniacs, though all it turns up is a quietly bizarre man (Tom Waits) who carries a rabbit everywhere he goes. Plot twist!
If that scenario sounds a bit too meta for your taste, don’t sweat it. An acclaimed playwright (his only previous film was the sleeper In Bruges), McDonagh boasts a fundamentally digressive sense of humor, and while he lands some funny jabs at screenwriting “rules” and action-flick conventions, his plot is mostly just a sturdy rack upon which to hang a lot of uproarious bits involving overly precise language, loopy mental gymnastics and other irrelevant curlicues. Farrell, Rockwell, Harrelson and an unusually grounded Walken (he’s practically the straight man) make a first-rate rat-a-tat ensemble, and if the film treats its women (Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko) as objects, at least it has the grace to make that itself a joke.