Genre: Comedy, Crime
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell
It’s not quite In Bruges, but Martin McDonagh’s second big screen caper is manic, moving and often marvellous.
Trailers for Seven Psychopaths paint it as a sort of madcap Tarantino-esque crime caper and although that is sort of true, Seven Psychopaths is also a deconstruction of these violent, testosterone driven Hollywood movies and of screenwriting itself.
Seven Psychopaths reunites writer/director Martin McDonagh with Colin Farrell who plays Marty Faranan, an alcoholic Irish writer with a strong case of writers block, attempting to pen a Hollywood screenplay. He has a title for his film, ‘Seven Psychopaths’, but little else. He hasn’t even figured out who his seven psychopaths are yet. This is something that is reflected in this film itself. Although the trailers proudly flag up seven psychopaths with nicknames like the colour-co-ordinated bank robber in Reservoir Dogs, the truth is that there aren’t really seven psychopaths and if there are, they certainly don’t take the form you’d expect. One or two are major characters, another couple are minor roles, tangential to the main plot and several others are fictional, dreamed up by Marty and his comrades but never interacting with them. It’s an intentionally unsatisfying move and one that pays dividends.
As Marty struggles to write his screenplay he is aided by his friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), a fast talking, slightly unhinged out of work actor. Unfortunately for Marty, Billy is also involved in a bizarre dog-napping scam with the religious and otherwise peaceful Hans Kieslowski (Christopher Walken). When Billy and Hans unwittingly kidnap a gang-lord’s beloved Shih Tzu, Marty finds himself caught up in an increasingly escalating series of events.
What makes Seven Psychopaths unique is the way in which the events that take place not only reflect Marty’s writing but also side-step the conventions usually associated with the genre. Marty claims that, despite the aggressive title of his screenplay, he wants to write a film that is ultimately peaceful and redemptive and that is exactly what Martin McDonagh delivers here. There are plenty of wonderful one-liners and plot-twists but also conversations where there would normally be shootouts and traditional action sequences delivered in unrelated tangents and fantasies. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny, which helps, as well as strangely thought-provoking and moving as events progress. What’s more, Seven Psychopaths has an absolutely stellar cast who, in turn, deliver stellar performances. Colin Farrell wisely downplays his character among scenery-chewing performances by Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson as gangster Charlie Costello. Best of, Christopher Walken gives a surprisingly touching performance, probably his best in decades.
What Seven Psychopaths lacks, however, is a sense of economy. Martin McDonagh’s wonderful film debut In Bruges had a wonderful sense of place, of form and of purpose. Seven Psychopaths on the other hand often feels unwieldy and bloated. It’s just not as tight an experience. While much of this is no doubt intentional on McDonagh’s part, an intentionally messy film is still a messy film.
But what a glorious mess. Seven Psychopaths is far from perfect but its idiosyncrasies only serve to fuel the madness. Self-aware and self-fulfilling, Seven Psychopaths is good, clean, psychotic fun.