Seven? More like ten. Or fifteen. Heck, I lost count after the first hour or so. And they’re all part of one of the more quirky and flat-out fun movies to hit theaters this year.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) is back after a four-year big screen break with what starts as a simple tale about professional dog-nappers but quickly escalates into a twisted, bloody film that would look right at home on the resumes of the Coen Brothers or Quentin Tarantino.

Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken) are in the business of stealing dogs. After keeping the mutts safe and well-fed for a few days, they return them to their owners and collect the reward. No harm, no foul. Until, that is, they accidentally nab the beloved Shih Tzu of a ruthless mobster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson).

Meanwhile, Billy’s best friend Martin (Colin Farrell) is staring writer’s block in the face as he tries to finish (well, start) his screenplay for a movie called Seven Psychopaths. It doesn’t take too long for the two plots to collide, and the (real) movie is off and running on a brutal, black comedy joyride.

Every time you think you’re heading down a road you’ve been down many times before, McDonagh careens off in a completely new direction. He’s a master of witty, crackling dialogue, and the result is a very good film (despite dragging a bit before the slam-bang finale). And it’s driven by a spot-on cast.

McDonagh wisely called on his buddies Rockwell and Walken (who starred in McDonagh’s 2010 Tony-nominated play A Behanding in Spokane) and Farrell (from In Bruges) to serve as tour guides through the madness. And Harrelson is a excellent as a mild-mannered version of Natural Born Killers‘ Mickey Knox, by way of the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.

Seven Psychopaths is as whacked out as it is hilarious and as brutal as it is (oddly) touching. Fortunately McDonagh’s much better at making films than he is at counting.

4/5 stars