Has Colin Farrell lost his way?

london-boulevard-movie-1I watched London Boulevard on TV at the weekend. The best way I can describe it is… You know those times when you’re feeling lonely and your phone buzzes? ‘Ah ha!’ you think, ‘I’ve got a text. Someone loves me’. Your chubby little fingers scramble to bring your device to life; only to discover it’s some automated message about which you couldn’t care less. You’re left feeling deflated, dejected, and slightly used. So there it is. London Boulevard.

On paper it had promise. A good cast: Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone, David Thewlis, Anna Friel and Colin Farrell. Celebrated screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) was directing although, based on results, perhaps he should stick to writing. To be fair the film is passable, albeit unmemorable. Whilst it’s hardly The Departed (I mean, what is? Before you say it I’m aware of Infernal Affairs) it is still a decent effort for a debut director.

However, Monahan is not on trial here. Back to Farrell.

Since he burst onto the scene with Tigerland (2000) I’d argue he’s done precious little to justify his continued career – bar a few exceptions. Phone Booth (2002) really made me sit up and take notice. phone-booth-2002-01This guy has talent. And then, having shown what he can do, he ducked his head below the parapet for about six years, before catching everyone off guard with a brilliant turn in the darkly comic In Bruges (2008).

There it is! I hadn’t seen Farrell’s comedy chops since Ordinary Decent Criminal (2000). And that was way back in the day, practically Ballykissangel (1998) era where it all began. Now I’m not saying comedy should be his de facto genre of choice. But it would be good to see more of it. That said, Farrell does like to dabble in a variety of genres. Perhaps that’s his problem. What’s his strength? What does he stand for? Now I know actors don’t like to be pigeonholed but… If you were given the task of explaining the type of actor Colin Farrell is, what would you say?

Is he intense? Is he funny? Would you say he’s an A-list pretender punching above his weight? Or is he a true talent? For example, since the action heydays of the ’80s, Hollywood has always been searching round for the next leading action manFilm Title: In Bruges. They’ve toyed with Farrell a few times: Daredevil (2003), S.W.A.T. (2003), Miami Vice (2006), Total Recall (2012). But I just don’t buy it. Again, he’s passable. Solid. Gets the job done. But it’s just not enough. Not nearly enough.

With some actors you can tell, you can sense it. He’s got talent I know it. Detractors would say it’s hidden talent, lurking beneath the surface at best. That still counts. I just don’t know what he needs to bring it out. Not that it’s my job to bring it out, but we all need hope.

As Christopher Walken says in Seven Psychopaths (another passable Farrell film), ‘Dream sequences are for fags, but we all gotta dream, don’t we?’

Christopher Walken – oh what, wow, he’s the greatest dancer!

chris-walkenAs an actor, Christopher Walken is unique. From his voice and delivery of lines to his undeniable screen presence and quirky nature, when he’s on form there’s something hypnotic, vulnerable and somewhat frightening about him.

Indeed, he’s given some mesmerising performances over the years, sometimes for the whole film, sometimes just for a scene or two. And like the cinephiles we are we’ll take what we can get, because on his day, full-on Walken is a sight to behold.

Here’s my pick of performances I’ll cherish as classic Walken:

  • King of New York (1990)
    Frank White, a drug lord fresh from prison looking to rebuild his empire, was one of the first Walken performances I saw as a youngster and it got me hooked. Playful menace doesn’t come much better in the Abel Ferrara directed crime thriller.
  • True Romance (1993)
    One of my all-time favourite scenes. Walken is astonishing as Sicilian gangster Vicenzo Coccotti. ‘You tell the angels in heaven you never saw evil so singularly personified in the face of the man who killed you.’ If there was ever a spin-off to be made with Vicenzo hunting down Clarence and Alabama again, I’d be first in line at the cinema.
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
    One scene comprising of a monologue about a gold watch. That is all. Ok, a little more. From his off-kilter delivery of lines and wavering voice through to intelligent menace and perfect dramatic and comedic timing, this scene has it all, and provides a crash course in his appeal.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
    God, which scene do you pick? From ‘Two little mice’ to ‘Where you going Frank?’, Walken’s star shines oh so bright in this film and he practically steals each scene, overshadowing DiCaprio with a twinkle in his eye. A raw, tender performance to be cherished.
  • Seven Psychopaths (2012)
    Back to his best? After years of languishing in mediocre films – particularly god-awful comedies – he pulls this out the bag. Going toe-to-toe with Woody Harrelson’s gangster, Walken just grins and turns on the malevolent menace, with some juicy lines delivered with typical gusto ‘dream sequences are for fags but…we all gotta dream don’t we?’

So there we go. Where’s The Deer Hunter you ask? Or even his sexy dance in Wayne’s World 2? Whilst the former is clearly a career-high, it felt out of keeping with the rest of my list in some ways. I suppose I just prefer Walken in playful menace mode – far more appealing. As such, I’d like to finish with this ‘motivational’ scene from Poolhall Junkies

Seven Psychopaths – one psycho too many?

seven-psychopaths streetFours years has passed since Writer/Director Martin McDonagh gave us the critically-acclaimed In Bruges – a film where two hitmen lie low in Belgium after a job goes awry.

The pairing of Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as gangsters with mismatched feelings at being stuck in aforesaid town provide some brilliantly scripted, darkly comic scenes. With Seven Psychopaths I expected more of the same. Whilst McDonagh does indeed show much magic, he doesn’t quite hit the heights of his feature-length debut. I’ll explain why, but first, the plot.

Out in sunny LA, Irish screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) is trying to finish a script entitled Seven Psychopaths. His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) offers to help, telling him tales of real psychopaths, including dog-napper Hans (Christopher Walken) and gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson). Things escalate when Billy kidnaps Charlie’s dog for Hans to hold it for ransom.

christopher-walken-seven-psychopathsWhat worked?
McDonagh has an exceptional ear for dialogue – one of the hardest things to achieve as a writer – and uses it in highly inventive and quotable ways. Indeed, he’s been compared to Tarantino in that sense. Plus his efforts here in terms of dialogue are easily as good as In Bruges. Rockwell and Walken in particular, get some juicy lines to sink their teeth into ‘Dream sequences are for fags’ and ‘Gandhi was wrong. Just noone had the balls to say it’.

In terms of great performances Christopher Walken is the most enigmatic and menacing I’ve seen him in ages – perhaps his best since Catch Me If You Can ten years ago – that casual, nonchalant, off-beat delivery of lines, often followed with a psychotic, wolfish grin. Equally scary and funny. Rockwell takes centre-stage as the most wildly unhinged of the group, putting in a commendable performance, but still eclipsed by Walken at his finest.

seven_psychopaths_charlieHarrelson, too, is on top form, veering between menacing gangster and blubbing wreck whenever his dog is concerned. This leaves Farrell to play the straight role, admirably acting with those expansive eyebrows of his – Ronnie Corbett style.

What didn’t?
Whilst Farrell does a fine job, it seems McDonagh has missed the chance to have him flex his comic muscles, as he did so effectively for In Bruges. I assume Sam Rockwell as the obvious funnyman is an easier sell for US audiences, maybe that’s my cynical take.

In some ways, whilst the script is smart and well written, it can come across as too clever for its own good. Almost revelling in self-parody and never missing the chance to have a dig at Hollywood. Whilst this is no bad thing, it can rather quickly get tiresome.

For example, both the film and Marty’s script have little room for female characters, indeed the actresses we do see are highly talented (Abbie Cornish, Gabourey Sidibe) but have next to nothing to do. Something mirrored in Marty’s script, seven-psychopaths-rockwell21which Hans remarks on when suggesting improvements. I’m not sure every time McDonagh becomes aware of a script issue he should resolve it by pointing it out – this might work once but it’s not an eternal ‘get out of jail free’ clause.

I like it. It’s got layers
Those points aside, overall it’s an entertaining, highly quotable, tremendously silly action film that revels in its own shortcomings, as well as being a great vehicle for Walken, Rockwell and Harrelson to flex their psychotic comedy chops. Another to add to your Friday night popcorn list!