(l to r) Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell holding Bonnie the Shih Tzu

Filmmaker Martin McDonagh possesses a rare talent for ushering black comedy to a particularly bitter end, luring his audience into effusive laughter all along the bullet-ridden way. His prior 2009 feature In Bruges (Oscar-nominated for Best Screenplay) acts as a kind of prelude to this heist-y shootapalooza, with an aggressive American vibe overriding that of his previously sentient Irish hitmen. This time, rather than dispatching his trigger-happy characters to the ironically precious tourist city of Bruges, McDonagh calls on Hollywood to act as host. He plays havoc with L.A. screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell), who’s barely working on his script entitled “Seven Psychopaths.” McDonagh mines an additional layer of mirth from the world of wannabe Hollywood talents who rub shoulders with assorted oddballs, i.e., those folks who possess a well-honed flair for turning a larcenous buck. Hey, it’s Hollywood … everyone has to go along to get along, don’t they?

The film’s oft-exercised practice of wackadoo whacking occurs immediately, with two thugs loitering around the jogging path of Lake Hollywood, on assignment to rub out some nameless woman. The murderous duo (played by two criminal overlords from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Pitt) have a heated conversation about death via eyeball shootings … just before a masked assailant, walking straight toward the lens from a distance, unceremoniously takes them both out. All of which occurs before we even see the title splashed on screen. Oh boy. It’s going to be a wild ride.

With large doses of wit written into every scene (perhaps bowing to McDonagh’s other career as an award-winning playwright), Seven Psychopaths sketches out a few days in the life of alcoholically challenged Marty. When his friends kidnap a beloved Shih Tzu belonging to an unstable, bloodthirsty gangster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson), he finds himself inadvertently caught up in a berserk Southern California underworld.

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