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, Michael Pitt, Kevin Corrigan, Gabourey Sidibe, 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 dog.
Before we begin, I have to confess – I didn’t really “get” In Bruges when I saw it at the cinema. I liked it don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t love it. It wasn’t until I saw it on DVD a few years later that I finally understood what the fuss was about. I get the feeling Seven Psychopaths will have the same effect on a lot of people because it’s a film where you get more out of it the more you think about it.
Explaining the intricacies of Seven Psychopaths is an incredibly hard job and one that I am not taking lightly. I have been staring at my laptop screen now for a good 20 minutes trying to surmise in words why this movie is subtle genius. What you get with Seven Psychopaths is a movie about a script that is being written but is playing out the same way the script is being penned (confused yet?). This isn’t an existential thing, this is how the film works (the scriptwriter character is Marty, the writer of the movie Martin McDonagh). The movie only really changes in pace and tone when one of Marty’s friends tells him how he thinks the movie should go. All the while there is a main plot that sort of acts like a sub plot at times involving Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell stealing the Shi-Tzu of crime boss Charlie (played by Woody Harrelson). It’s an incredibly bizarre and odd movie that will keep you thinking long after the movies credits have ended.
However this also makes it very hard to criticise because all of the things wrong with the movie are intentional. You could argue that the female characters are pointless and underplayed, but this is because Marty doesn’t know how to write female dialogue and it’s a trait of the genre he’s writing. The plot takes a little while to get going and find its feet, but this because Marty hasn’t written anything but the title and we only get new characters when he starts to write about them. The argument could also be made that the ending is a little lacklustre and it’s just three guys sitting in the desert talking – but that’s the ending that Marty wanted for his movie. Now, this could very well be this critic reading too much into the movie, but I’d like to think that this is subtle genius on the part of Martin McDonagh.
Seeing as though I can’t criticise the movie, I shall praise everything that I loved about it – mainly the cast of characters and the actors who play them. I’ve always been a defender of Colin Farrell and think that he just picks poor movies to star in, but here he shows just how great he can be with a decent script and a good director. His performance is so good that it seems a shame that it’s overshadowed by Sam Rockwell’s superbly crazy performance of Billy and Christopher Walken’s off-kilter-but-sweet-yet-still-nuts Hans. These two make such a great team-up that I sort of wish they had their own movie. Woodly Harrelson is fantastic as Charlie and it seems like a stroke of luck that Mickey Rourke had a falling out with the production team and left the movie because I couldn’t seem him doing as good of a job as Harrelson. And for only getting a couple of scenes, Tom Waits is awesome as the insanely mad Zachariah who, again, I wish was given more screen time.
McDonagh hasn’t just created a script that is genius in testing the attention levels of its audience, but also one with very well-written dialogue. It reminds me of the early days of Quentin Tarantino with its quick witted, snappy exchanges. It draws you into each and every scene and you find yourself hanging onto every word uttered by the characters. This, along with the wonderful performances, is just a great compliment to the intricacies of its bizarre plot.
Seven Psychopaths will not please everyone. I can imagine those who are just expecting a funny dog stealing romp (and who wouldn’t given the promotional material) might find certain aspects of the story to be fairly boring (even though its intentional), but those who want to get more from their movies will find a lot of entertainment here. You may not enjoy it straight from the outset, but repeat reviewing will reveal more and more of McDonagh’s genius. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.