Seven Psychopaths, 2012.
Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh.
Starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Željko Ivanek, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Pitt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Stuhlbarg and Harry Dean Stanton.
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.
Seven Psychopaths is a new comedy from writer/director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) about writing, love and, well, psychopaths.
The film follows Irish screenwriter Marty Faranan (played by Colin Farrell; Total Recall) as he struggles to complete his screenplay for a film called “Seven Psychopaths.” He has the title, the problem is he can’t think of any psychopaths and can’t write anything. His best friend, Billy Bickle (a homage to Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, and played with similar intensity but more hilarity by Sam Rockwell; Moon) tries to help Marty by telling him stories about psychos and killers. Billy is a failed actor and earns a living as a dog-napper with partner in crime Hans (Christopher Walken; Pulp Fiction).
Billy, Hans and Marty end up in trouble when Billy kidnaps Shih Tzu belonging to psychopath mob boss Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson; Zombieland). A comedy of errors ensues as the trio attempt to escape Charlie’s revenge and try to help Marty finish his script.
There are lots of labels one can throw at Seven Psychopaths. It’s a postmodern crime comedy, it’s a neo-noir parody of crime films, it’s a pastiche and homage to several films with plenty of references for the film-savvy viewer. It feels a lot like a cross between a Coen Brothers movie, specifically The Big Lebowski and Miller’s Crossing, with a Tarantino movie like Pulp Fiction. It has a meta-narrative that examines and deconstructs story-telling in modern films: at one point, Marty’s script is criticised by the others, and because Marty feels so much like an author-insert of McDonagh, it comes across that McDonagh’s own characters are pointing out the shortfalls of McDonagh’s own work, such as his lack of decent female characters. For one of the characters in particular, the line between film and reality is seemingly blurred. It’s kind of genius in a way, and makes the story very unpredictable.
However, the most important label for the film is that it is fresh and very, very funny. The film is at its best when characters are simply talking to one another. McDonagh’s mastery of character and dialogue means that these diverse and eccentric characters (all very well acted) are simply fun to watch, with character-based humour, as well as moments of pitch-black gallows humour. There are also moments of incredibly effective drama: Walken brings a huge deal of pathos and emotion to the film, while Tom Waits’ (Rumble Fish) brief appearance as a killer of serial killers leads to an emotive montage of a marriage breaking down.
There are some weaknesses in the film: it goes on a little long, while the story is kind of contrived and feels slap-dash. However, the story is really just a backdrop for these interesting, character-based set pieces and dream sequences, and is filled with very fine performances and lots of mad-cap moments, as well as quite a few shoot-outs, twists and gory moments. Plus, lots of cute doggies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★