Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Stars: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abby Cornish, Olga Kurylenko
Genre: Crime, Comedy, Thriller
Being a huge fan of crime films and the genre in general I had to take a look at Seven Psychopaths directed by the same man who gave us the off-colour dark comedy In Bruges. I have to admit that In Bruges doesn’t fall into my top list of favorite crime films due to its nature and pacing, so I was a bit skeptical as to what I was going to find with this latest feature by Martin McDonagh. However, I do think Collin Farrells performance in the film In Bruges was one of his best, if not, the best of his career so far because it had altered the path of his acting in a big way.
What sets Seven Psychopaths apart for me from the general was that it is not a comedy, but it’s got lots of moments that will make you laugh. It’s not a thriller, but it has lots of excitement. It’s not a date movie – and thank God, there are no lame-ass romantic entanglements or love triangles to completely ruin and debase all the killing, debauchery and manliness that takes place between all the characters. Romantics are fine in these types of films, however, only when they are brief, raw and not caught up in some sort of weird teen drama fest where the characters act like needy hormonal prepubescent’s trying to play “High School dry hump” with each other in their parents basements. When you’re a criminal bad-ass you don’t have time for that shit. There are people to kill, contracts to fulfill and money to be made. There is no time to cuddle and mentally masturbate with your potential future spouse about how many kids you want, and if you should start looking at hand towels at Bed Bath & Beyond this weekend for your new bungalow that the two of you will eventually fight over in court later on down the road.
Anyways, this off-kilter movie about stupid criminals and angry murderers features a Hollywood screenwriter( Colin Farrell) with writer’s block, a couple of dog kidnappers( Lead by Christopher Walken) who make their money cashing in on reward money, and an especially deranged mob boss( Woody Harrelson) who loves his dog, but hates his girlfriend. The setup might seem like black comedy, but unlike other campy films that laugh at dead bodies, Seven Psychopaths is a smart, engaging film with a point much deeper than tasteless humor. But that’s not to say the movie isn’t funny. Christopher Walken is habitually hilarious. Sam Rockwell steals every scene in my view, and you’ll want to laugh at nearly every single thing he says. Woody Harrelson, playing a remorselessly homicidal bastard, will make you laugh all the way through the film. Even Colin Farrel, who I really don’t tend to find funny, is comical and entertaining in this film. Nevertheless like I said, even with all the jokes, Seven Psychopaths is not a comedy.
This bogus film vs. real movie is a back-and-forth cross over between the ‘real world’ of the movie you’re examining and the make-believe story being written by the main character. The fake story features several characters that never make it into the actual events, but the real tale also has several people who don’t make the leap to fiction. However, while the fake movie might be fun to watch, it’s not there purely for its amusement factor. It’s there to make a point, to make you think, and to present a mutable environment that changes to imitate the mindsets of its collaborating writers. You find out more about the real characters from the stories they tell than you ever get watching their actual lives. It took me a while to get and understand this (with the help of some wobbly-pops/loudmouth soup) but I eventually tied everything together.
There’s a great deal of hidden meaning and subtle commentary – so much, in fact, that I know damned well I didn’t get it all. There were some points about linear, conventional Hollywood film-making (a point driven home when the previews featured a basic revenge fantasy movie with that bald guy from Snatch). McDonagh wrote the script about fifteen years ago so I took this film as a comment on the post-Tarantino indie crime movies of the ’90s. There are some thought-provoking comments on the significance of revenge, some observations on our societal desire to see people being brutally slain, and no small amount of discussion on what it means to be a true friend. Comparisons to Pulp Fiction are going to be almost unavoidable when you watch this film. Seven Psychopaths has some remarkable dialog. It has the same kind of surprising moments along with the same irreverence and mockery for human life, brought into stark contrast with the Woody’s unconditional love for his pet and pet alone.
There are some pacing issues, for instance like what you would find with In Bruges. The first two-thirds of the film are snappy, fast and wild, and then there’s a drawn out lull near the end when you may be watching with annoyance to get to the part where something happens again. We go from a raucous series of ridiculous murders (and a few that make sense) to an oddly elongated campfire retreat in the desert. In the end, it all seems to work for the best though. The campfire scene is what really brings together the whole message and point of the film.
With that said, I don’t want to make it seem like Seven Psychopaths is a film you can only take pleasure in if you’re some kind of Princeton film school snob. However, when you come here to Cinematic Underdogs & Overcats I hope (as always) you will leave with something more than just an afterthought or quick synopsis about a film, story-telling or life in general. Taken purely at face value though, this is an amusing, chaotic escapade with an ending you won’t see coming. Not like an M. Knight Shyamalan “What the f*ck did I just watch?” kind of ending, but a ‘real life doesn’t wrap itself up in a bow’ ending’. There’s dark humor doled out by the basket load, plus lots of shootings, explosions and sex. Without having to dive into the deeper meaning of the film, you can enjoy Seven Psychopaths as a wacky crime movie with lots of over-the-top characters and dialog so tight you could bounce a quarter off it.