After the resounding success of In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths’ writer-director Martin McDonagh was presumably given carte blanche for his next project. In some ways letting his breathless style of endlessly quotable dialogue mixed with his roguish characters loose on screen can only be a good thing but it does come at the cost of a plot so utterly confused, convoluted and forgettable that you are left with a sense of fun over narrative. No bad thing but wrapping it up in a Charlie Kaufman confusion of ‘screenwriting parable’ doesn’t so much mask the problems as directly draw attention to them.
Marty (Collin Farrell) is a hard-drinking screenwriter living in LA. He’s got women problems from his girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish) and his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) is a constant distraction. But Marty has a great title for his new script; Seven Psychopaths and Billy is anxious to help him write it, even going so far as to offer him ideas on who the psychopaths and what their back stories should be. But when Billy and his partner in crime Hans (Christopher Walken)
kidnap the dog of violent crime boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson), Marty finds himself surrounded by real psychopaths who will either inspire him to Hollywood gold or condone him to an early grave.
That’s right; the protagonist of Seven Psychopaths shares the same name as the writer director. Having worked together on In Bruges, McDonagh clearly sees Farrell as his onscreen persona. Not that it matters when McDonagh writes characters as well as this. For while Seven Psychopaths
delves too deeply into the art of screenwriting, constantly poking fun at what Hollywood finds acceptable – pointing out that you can’t kill animals in movies, just women – it is still a film of endless laughs and lines that you’ll be quoting to your friends for weeks afterwards.
Does it make any sense? No, it’s a mess of funny scenes thrown haplessly together.
But that doesn’t stop it being fun, it just means that by the time the credits role you don’t really care much about the fact it’s over. But you also know you’ve laughed more than your average film would allow and you’ve enjoyed the company of some wonderfully whacky characters. If anything you suspect McDonagh has read criticism of his previous film and used it as ammunition to make excuses for certain pitfalls. So women are not well written, they turn up, fleetingly, to either be unpleasant to the male characters or to die violently. Thankfully Marty’s buddies, Billy and Hans, are film connoisseurs and are able to point out his many writing flaws. Although whether this then excuses them being included in the film is arguably up to you.
Farrell continues his trend of loveable man-child which he played so well in In Bruges. There might be a slight salt and peppering of the hair but there’s no disguising that affable Irish rogue beneath it. Rockwell has, for some time, been one of Hollywood’s most dependable character actors, able to flit between drama and comedy with ease. As Billy he could so easily be annoying, his constant intrusion and boisterous ways never letting up, but in Rockwell’s hands you fall for his charm. Yes, he’s an idiot but a hugely entertaining one. Walken meanwhile goes about his thing as only he can.
Quietly dominating every scene he’s in with his laconic mannerisms and dry delivery. He’s at his most Walken here, both funny with just the right levels of unsettling psychotic ways. Woody Harrelson, in a part originally intended for Mickey Rourke (whose name appears on a tombstone at one point in the film), does his normal thing of being over the top but cartoonishly
Not as killer as it thinks it is, Seven Psychopaths has the wit of Tarantino but, if possible, much more self indulgence. If McDonagh can combine his stunning ability for dialogue into a plot that engages as much as his characters do then he could well be one to keep a very close eye