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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Films to Avoid: Seven Psychopaths and Cheeni Kim

Films to Avoid: A double header

Seven Psychopaths.

Martin McDonagh, the irish dramatist/filmmaker well known for stories of both Gruesome and Whimsical excess has finally fallen from his streak (in my eyes) or solid home runs. Seven Psychopaths, even if it had not come after such masterpieces like In Bruges or The Pillowman, would have been a deep disappointment. It ought not to be the plot(s) are solid enough: Screenwriter Marty (Collin Feral, never varying from his blandness) is trying to start a project about seven unconventional horror/mystery stories. He finds himself closer to the action than he would like when his friends Billy (Sam Rockwell,) and Hans (Christopher Walkin) dognap the beloved pooch of a local gangster (Woody Harrelson).

What follows is a mash up what would have been perfect Mcdonagh-esque stories presented on their own. Through his friends and their connections Marty is told, or dreams up such stories as the Quaker who torments his daughters killer for decades or the pair of young lovers (Tom Waits and Amanda Manson Warren) who go about the country a’serial killer killing, or the Vietnamese Priest who plans to immolate all those who had a hand in the massacre at My Lei. Unfortunately each of these stories, with their gallows humor and half second of philosophic thought are all to soon subsumed into the main tale of the dognappers and the screenwriter, which always has to create its own urgency to catch up.

A word on the violence: Mcdonagh is well known, both on stage and screen for use of blood and brains but in the past he has always limited himself to lots of imaginative description and a few well timed (dare we say, discrete?) “pops” of gore. In Seven Psychopaths the blood practically puddles out from under the screen, and the ventilation's and decapitations are so many in number they become dull and ridiculous instead of shocking and uncomfortable.

There are great moments within, such as Harrelson’s hackle raising confrontation with Han’s wife Myra (Linda Bright Clay) as well as Walkin’s own musings about the nature of the afterlife and the power of art. And the opening scene, between two ill fated hit men (Michael Stuhlberg and Michael Pitt) is But by and large the film is a sink of good stories where the end result is less than the sum of its parts.

Cheeni Kum

So here we have Amitabh Bachchan, titan of hindi cinema as Buddhadev Guppta a short tempered but very talented chef in London's foremost indian restaurant. He rules his kitchen with an iron fist and makes the most savory dishes whiles brusquely taking care of his mother and his ten year old cancerous neighbor. Into this shut in life waltzes Nina (Tabu) a woman half his age, who challenges his authority and exchanges her affections with his, in spite of raised eyebrows from her family and society at large. Sound like a good film to you? It did to me, until I saw it.

While an excellent example of the December May Romance story, Cheeni Kum sadly over saddles itself with poorly though out plots taking the sensible romance and making it a laughing stock of itself. To start with you have the Pathetic subplot of the Littlest Cancer Patient, a surprisingly mature and rather unsympathetic creature nicknamed “Sexy” who offers her elder friend romantic advice from deaths threshold, all the while upbraiding him for his stupidity and demanding favors. Then you have the comic subplot of Colgate the waiter (Khrishna Bhatt) with the prominent teeth, the butt of all kitchen jokes, which counts as office humor, and as such is not funny in the slightest. Then finally and most bizarrely you have the satirical subplot of Nina’s Father (Paresh Rawal) an odious hypocrite who’s mannerisms, appearance, and reactions to the match put a light under Ghandi-esque ideals.

Bachchan begins the film with his customary zeal, coldly giving monologues about the power of food, and in an endearingly awkward way, begins to press his suit. However by the half way mark, the dialogue has and exposure to subplot has mutated Guppta into a kind of dottering adolescent, lecherous and idiotic in equal turns. Tabu, alas does not live up to her past performances as a neo-Eleanor Dashwood or a Jaqueline Bauer, but delivers Nina with all the passion and inner strength (and articulation) of a boiled carrot. Sad to say, not even the best of actors can triumph over a poor script and poor direction.

I will not even allow a pip of my distaste for the cinematic style and soundscape bother you dear reader. Suffice to say they are both amateurish and one-track in the extreme.

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