Tom Cruise is the Eight Psychopath

Seven PsychopathsSeven Psychopaths (2012)

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Written by: Martin McDonagh

Cinematography by: Ben Davis

Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell,
Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken

Rating: B+

There’s a moment, about an hour into this flick, where a struggling screenwriter, Marty (Colin Farrell) discusses with Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken), how he sees his latest script (also called Seven Psychopaths) ending: with the main characters, in a secluded desert, doing nothing but talking, and contemplating life–a stark contrast from the violence on display in the first half, and much to Billy’s dismay, without a massive shootout. It’s not the first time in the film that the line between Marty’s script, and the actions/characters unfolding on screen begins to blur, but it’s perhaps the most concrete example of the two mediums finally (and somewhat blatantly) converging. It’s hard to really talk about the film without ruining what makes it such a special experience. It’s unconventional, it’s meta, it’s hilarious (yet poignant when it wants to be), and it’s fun, but most of all, it always knows what it is, even when it seems like it has no clue what it wants, or where it’s supposed to be, or even where it’s headed. The cast is tailor made, with Walken delivering his most nuanced performance in years, and Rockwell proving once again why he’s one of the best character actors working today. Farrell doesn’t have much to do other than play it straight, but he plays the part well, only enhancing the performances around him. A special shout out to Woody Harrelson, who manages to strike an absurd balance between being a mobster and a man-child. After In Bruges (2008), Martin McDonagh’s second feature further shows his strength, not just as a director, but as a writer. His ear for dialogue is right up there with Tarantino, and if In Bruges was more melancholy, Psychopaths enjoys being messy with its humor, language  characters, and violent actions.

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher (2012)

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Written by: Christopher McQuarrie

Cinematography by: Caleb Deschanel

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, Robert Duvall, Jai Courtney

Rating: B+

I haven’t read any of the books in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, but I don’t think I necessarily needed to in order to appreciate Christopher McQuarrie’s film. It’s a rather old school film, in that it has all the makings of a suspense thriller of the late 1980s, or early 1990s. Clues are given, leads are followed, and one mystery solved almost always leads to two more in need of being solved. The violence holds nothing back, and the writing is just as smart, sharp, and uncompromising. Tom Cruise didn’t strike me as an odd choice for the role. If anything, I was weary that for Cruise, Reacher would just be a grittier, less gadget equipped Ethan Hunt (of the Mission: Impossible series), but Cruise works well in the part. A stand out would have to be director turned actor Werner Herzog, known for Rescue Dawn (2007), Bad Lieutenant (2009), and Into Abyss (2011), who’s presence as a villain, while painfully minimal, is an absolute delight to watch. McQuarrie is perhaps best known for his screenplay for Brian Singer’s The Usual Suspects (1995), and his directorial debut, The Way of the Gun (2000). Both films seem like excellent gateways into making Jack Reacher. The sense of humor of Suspects serves the character of Jack Reacher well, while the intense violence/action of Way of the Gun is on full display with a striking opening sniper sequence, and a car chase towards the middle of the film that reminded me of Steve McQueen’s Bullitt (1968). I’ve kept my praise solely on McQuarrie for the sole fact that he crafts a film that isn’t remarkable because it’s a fresh take, or because’s it’s old wine in a new bottle; it’s precisely because he understands the aesthetics of what made that particular past genre cinema so effective, and he presents that to us, as is.

Two films with exceptional writing, and the violence to match the verbal at every step.