Title: Seven Psychopaths
Genre(s): Comedy, Crime, Drama
Director(s): Martin McDonagh
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
For years, Colin Farrell was an actor yearning for that single role that would break him free. Following numerous attempts at action, most of which were rather lackluster, the Irish-born actor drifted onto dramas and even an epic (Oh Alexander…) before finally settling for another comedy. John Crowley’s 2003 dark comedy Intermission had garnered him much praise, and it was due time for a return to form (again, Alexander…). Then came Martin McDonagh, Oscar-winning writer/director with only a single short film under his belt, Six Shooter, a pitch-black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson. The pair, along with Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes among others, went to work on what would become In Bruges. As darkly humorous as it was thought-provoking and introspective, McDonagh’s big-screen debut rapidly became something of a cult hit, revitalizing Farrell’s career in the process; he had finally found his niche.
It’s been four long years since In Bruges and many have been anxiously awaiting a follow-up from McDonagh and co. After all, there’s been a substantial lack of clever black comedies, few approaching or posing much threat at all to his pedigree. At last, that wait is finally over, with a successor in the form of Seven Psychopaths now playing in theaters worldwide. Featuring an incredible all-star cast outshining that of its predecessor from a financial standpoint, McDonagh has clearly outdone himself in terms of crafting an appealing, more commercially viable picture. That being said, this is not the goofy, Pineapple Express-like comedy the ads have made it out to be. While it doesn’t outshine the excellent In Bruges, namely due to a slightly inconsistent tone, Seven Psychopaths remains a consistently enjoyable, disturbingly funny meta-deconstruction of Hollywood conventions and myths thanks to its sharp script and joyously manic performances. In case you haven’t realized, this is a crazy, crazy film.
Marty (Colin Farrell) is a failing screenwriter and alcoholic in denial who’s been desperately looking for inspiration for his latest screenplay. Titled Seven Psychopaths, he turns to his hyperactive best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), an unemployed actor, for comfort and ideas for the titular roles, desperately looking for a creative start. Billy also runs a little business on the side with his friend Hans (Christopher Walken); the pair scout for dogs around town, steal them from their owners and return them inconspicuously a few days later, “humbly” accepting a reward. When he steals an adorable Shih Tzu, which happens to belong to a crime lord by the name of Charlie Costello (a traditionally unhinged Woody Harrelson), Marty is inadvertently thrown into a violent game of cat and mouse, while also being exposed to various subjects for his troubled screenplay. The result is a supremely enjoyable deconstruction of the Hollywood industry as well as a gleefully bloody romp through madness. In many ways, Seven Psychopaths acts as a more conventional, mainstream spiritual successor to McDonagh’s In Bruges, though this is by no means a cause for alarm; this is still very much a McDonagh film from the ground up, supplying plentiful buckets of gore while remaining fairly consistent in its macabre sense of humor. That being said, there are moments where Seven Psychopaths seemingly drifts off into much more serious, introspective territory, making a handful of questionable dramatic turns that don’t quite gel with the rest of the film. This is quite apparent in the film’s second act, as well as its bloody finale to a lesser extent. Despite these swift, often abrupt tonal shifts, McDonagh nearly always provides a comedic backbone to his situations, waiting for the perfect moment to let his wild characters alleviate the mood.
Few casts in recent memory have packed as many cult sensations as Seven Psychopaths, assembling one of the best outfits in recent memory. Colin Farrell, marking his second starring role in a McDonagh film, once again plays a man who’s life is thrust into a downward spiral of sorts, though to a much lesser degree. In Bruges confirmed that Farrell’s strengths lie in dark comedies and Seven Psychopaths only serves as further proof of this; equal parts hilarious as he is pathetic, Marty is a flawed character who slowly begins accepting his issues. Sam Rockwell, portraying Farrell’s best friend, turns in a positively loony performance that’s simply magnetic to say the least. Despite his wild antics and his generally unpredictable nature, Rockwell’s Billy remains a lovable character, once again showcasing Rockwell’s charismatic screen presence and further illustrating why he should get more starring roles. Christopher Walken, who’s generally been on autopilot for the last decade or so, delivers a strangely affecting performance in Hans, who’s peculiar calmness manifests itself later on. Also noteworthy is Woody Harrelson as Charlie, a lunatic mobster with an uncommonly close attachment to his dog, showcasing a ruthless side as well as numerous elements of a more pathetic nature. It’s yet another fairly memorable and comically mad performance from Harrelson, serving as the icing on the cake on what is already a supremely solid cast. Also present is singer/songwriter Tom Waits, who, despite a generally comic segment and a uproarious post-credit scene, feels largely wasted. Olga Kurylenko rounds out the cast, though she receives even less screen time than Waits and serves as more of a tool than a character. All in all however, Seven Psychopaths assembles one of the best casts in recent memory.
In its second act, the film’s main trio camp out in the desert and brainstorm an ending for Marty’s screenplay. Billy then steals the stage, energetically retelling his ideal final sequence as McDonagh and co. show us the result via an over-dramatic, self-aware visual depiction. As Billy gains enthusiasm in his description, so do we, witnessing the senseless, completely ludicrous re-enactment of his paper thin script. It’s moments like these that illustrate why Martin McDonagh has such a cult following. While it never quite reaches the depths of McDonagh’s preceding film, Seven Psychopaths never tries to; it’s perfectly content as an all-star crime special, while spending just as much time deconstructing the genre and the industry. The result can only be described as a genuinely amusing romp through delirious, bloody carnage.