WHEN SELF-INDULGENCE WORKS

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This Season: for Nicholas Barber's pick of the winter movies, think Tarantino meets Charlie Kaufman...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, November/December

Well, wouldn't you? In 2008, Martin McDonagh made a triumphant transition from award-winning playwright to award-winning writer-director with his rollicking hitman comedy "In Bruges", and now he has rewarded himself, it seems, by creating a movie which indulges every one of his fantasies. For starters, he's set "Seven Psychopaths" in sun-baked Los Angeles, with an I've-made-it-Ma shot of the Hollywood sign in the opening seconds. He's written roles for cooler-than-cool indie icons such as Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell; he's found room for two celebrated pin-ups, Olga Kurylenko and Abbie Cornish; and he's cast Colin Farrell as an Irish screenwriter named, yes, Marty. Farrell is struggling to finish a script about a septet of homicidal maniacs, only to get more inspiration than he bargained for when his friends (Walken and Rockwell) dog-nap a Shih Tzu belonging to a trigger-happy mob boss (Woody Harrelson). The film delivers as a riotously sick and twisted crime caper, but it's also a post-modern critique of the same: Quentin Tarantino to the power of Charlie Kaufman. If "Seven Psychopaths" teeters on the border between self-reflexive and self-indulgent, McDonagh's mischievous intelligence ensures that it's a reward for us as well as for him.
Seven Psychopaths opens in Britain December 7th

FILM AT A GLANCE
Rust & Bone (Nov 2nd). Jacques Audiard follows up "A Prophet" with a redemptive romance: beautiful whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) meets bare-knuckle boxer (Matthias Schoenaerts). Cotillard's intensity is such that both the viewer and a six-tonne killer whale are powerless before her.

Argo (Nov 7th). Continuing his evolution from mocked B-movie hunk to respected craftsman, Ben Affleck directs and stars in another tough, grounded thriller. It's the true story of a fake film cooked up by the CIA to smuggle American hostages out of Iran.

The Master (Nov 2nd). Paul Thomas Anderson returns. 

The Hunt (Nov 30th). The latest film to lift up the rock of liberal Scandinavia and point at the creepy-crawlies beneath, Thomas Vinterberg's dark satire stars Mads Mikkelson as an adored nursery teacher whose life implodes when he's accused of abusing a pupil.

Life of Pi (Dec 21st). Ang Lee works with children and animals—or rather, a child and a Bengal tiger, both in the same boat—for his 3D take on Yann Martel's Booker-winner.

Great Expectations (Nov 30th). Make that "Moderate Expectations". David Nicholls's script and Mike Newell's direction are solid, but David Lean's classic adaptation is still the one to beat.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec 14th). Martin Freeman was born to stick on Bilbo's pointy ears and hairy feet, but the decision to split the book into three instalments may have less to do with art than with the money raked in by the final Harry Potter and "Twilight" films.

Jack Reacher (Dec 26th). Tom Cruise attempts to launch a franchise as Lee Child's mountainous vigilante, presumably using reverse-"Hobbit" technology to make him look tall enough. 

Nicholas Barber is a film critic who writes reviews for the Independent On Sunday and previews for Intelligent Life