“A very amusing and enjoyable film, provoking as much laughter out of the audience as In Bruges managed...”
Following on from the huge success of the brilliant Oscar-nominated In Bruges, for director Martin McDonagh there was always going to be a degree of expectation placed upon his follow-up feature. However the Irish filmmaker has taken such pressure and turned it around resourcefully, creating a self-reflective film about a screenwriter struggling to put together a script – as McDonagh takes a somewhat wry, satirical look into the process of creating a movie and matching past success - in his latest feature Seven Psychopaths.
The writer in question is Marty (Colin Farrell), who, although wanting an easy life whereby he writes triumphant screenplays and spends his evenings in front of the telly, his best friend and complete lunatic Billy (Sam Rockwell) firmly ensures that not be the case, as given the fact Marty is currently working on a project called “Seven Psychopaths”, Billy takes on the role as researcher and advisor somewhat to heart, as the pair become embroiled in a series of incidents involving, you guessed it, seven psychopaths – of which Billy himself occupies at least one spot.
Billy – alongside corrupt colleague Hans (Christopher Walken) steal pet dogs for a living, only to return to them safely back to their owners in return for the cash rewards. However, when they steal a pet Shih Tzu from renowned and highly erratic gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson), they – along with the reluctant Marty – are on the chase, as they attempt to work out a way of returning the dog and not getting themselves killed. The only problem is, everyone surrounding this unfortunate set of events, is stark raving bonkers.
Seven Psychopaths is a hugely intelligent and witty piece for McDonagh, as there is a brilliant tongue-in-cheek feel throughout this production, complimented by a somewhat sardonic take on the film industry. Effectively, the film we are witnessing is the very same one that Marty is attempting to write. It's clever and when combined with such a witty script; effective. Farrell is McDonagh's puppet in a sense, channelling the director's own thoughts through the protagonist. There is a message in here also, as Marty consistently complains of outside influences jeopardising his work as he just wants to make the film he wants to make.
However, there is an issue that arises with such a method – and although being very funny – Marty often criticises his own work in the film, which is effectively McDonagh taking a poke at himself, but the criticisms seem too valid and merely raise attention to some of the more lacklustre aspects to this feature, such as his inability to write any decent female roles and also how it all just descends into madness rather than follow any direct narrative. These are genuine issues within Seven Psychopaths, and by acknowledging and highlighting them, it doesn't automatically make it okay. If anything, by knowing they exist and not acting upon them, is almost worse.
Nonetheless, it's a very amusing and enjoyable film, provoking as much laughter out of the audience as In Bruges managed. The performances enhance this of course, and given the film is about psychopaths, it seems only right that Rockwell managed to get on board. I doubt he even turned up for an audition for this one. Walken is the stand out performer however, turning in one of his finest performances for a long time, as it's refreshing to see such a fantastic actor given a leading role, as too often we see him confined to being the occasional cameo here and there. It's a role almost written for him also, allowing him the opportunity to showcase his fine acting ability.
Meanwhile, Farrell impresses, as his character is vital to the overall story as everyone in this film is eccentric and mad, and Farrell represents the more ordinary, everyday man; imperative as we then witness this crazy, lopsided world through his relatively normal eyes.
Seven Psychopaths is all over the place, and although such a phrase is often a discriminatory remark, in this instance it's evidently the point. It's supposed to be mad and messy, as it follows the lives of mad and messy men. In what is a very funny picture, this may not have that sharp narrative or degree of class that comes with In Bruges, but it's brilliant all the same. Just brilliantly different, that's all.