Seven Psychopaths

Marty (Colin Farrell) is an alcoholic writer (otherwise known as just a writer) who has the title of his latest screenplay – Seven Psychopaths – but is struggling for anything after that. His best friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) is desperate to help, and posts an advert in a newspaper, calling for any psychopathic characters to get in touch as inspiration. Meanwhile, Billy and Hans (Christopher Walken) run a dog-napping business, in which Billy ‘borrows’ the dogs from unsuspecting owners, only for Hans to return them a few days later and collect the reward. This all goes a little awry when Billy’s latest victim, Bonny the ShihTzu, is owned by ruthless mob boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson), and he really loves that dog.
First things first, I love In Bruges. So much so that I actually visited Bruges earlier this year, and spent most of the trip hunting out alcoves and dwarves (and eating chocolate, but that’s got less relevance to the film). As such, when it was announced that Martin McDonagh was writing and directing another film I was suitably ecstatic, a state that was only intensified when I discovered that not only was he re-teaming with Colin Farrell, but was being joined by three of my favourite actors in Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken. These three actors appearing in a film essentially guarantees my purchasing of a ticket, so I’d have doubtlessly gone to see this film even without McDonagh’s involvement. Add to this cast Tom Waits as a bunny-brandishing nutjob who responds to Billy’s advert and a whole host of character actors who I won’t reveal due to their cropping up unexpectedly being one of the things I loved about this film. Oh, I will ruin one. Try and spot Crispin Glover, he’s there for literally seconds, and nearly spoilt the film for me as I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name when he appeared, which is the kind of thing that really irritates me. In fact, I’m not entirely sure it was Glover, but I think it was.
If, like myself, you’re a fan of self referential cinema, such as the Scream series or Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation, then this truly is the film for you. It’s the kind of film where someone in the film is writing the film you’re watching, including them writing it, and where someone remarks that a location is ideal for a climactic shoot-out, only for such a scene to take place there at the end of the film. Granted, this does at times make some of the oncoming elements predictable, and leaves you waiting around for the inevitable to eventually take place. This isn’t always the case, and there are a few red herrings dropped in there too, which solved that problem I suppose. The meta aspect shows an ambitious leap for McDonagh, but it does work. Also present are various flashbacks and stories within stories, but it never becomes confusing or tiringly complex.  However, there were some references to Hollywood cliches that were perhaps trying to excuse the faults of the film – poorly written female characters, action-light centre, attempts to crowbar a life-affirming message into a stylishly violent movie – but in my eyes just highlighted their presence here. I appreciated the humour in the situation, but the laughs weren’t big enough to overcome the foibles.

I felt that no-one was really stretching themselves acting-wise. The characters are all fairly typical of the actors playing them, and they’re all something they’ve done before. This does mean that the characters are tried-and-tested, and are all in well cast, capable hands, but there was a slight feeling of people sticking to what they know they’re good at, and not experimenting with something new. It’s just as likely that everyone performed so well in the roles that it felt like they’d all played them a thousand times before, but wither way this isn’t an insult, it’s just my initial reaction to seeing Rockwell play unhinged, Farrell the weary straight man, Walken an eccentric yet philosophical oddball and Harrelson a dangerous psychotic. Oh, and according to the dates of his flashback, and assuming the film is set in the present day, Waits’ character should be about 85 years old, as opposed to 63.
This is all forgotten when you consider the amazing script (although some of the better lines were of course ruined in the trailer, though I probably shouldn’t have watched it several dozen times in anticipation), and the epic graveyard scene in the centre of the film, which unfortunately was never bettered as the movie went on. The image of Walken rising from a grave brandishing twin pistols is just beyond awesome.

Choose film 8/10

3 thoughts on “Seven Psychopaths

  1. Such an unpredictable, funny, and dark tale that only gets more entertaining as it goes along. It's not as near-perfect as In Bruges, but still a whole of fun all the same. Good review Jay.

  2. Pingback: Lincoln | Life Vs Film

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