Screenwriter: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Ferrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, and Woody Harrelson
Seven Psychopaths is Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to his quirky 2008 hit, In Bruges. McDonagh is making a name for himself as his two films complement each other nicely and provide a roadmap for the type of director McDonagh aspires to be. Like Tarantino or Hitchcock, McDonagh strives to make films about similar types of characters viewed through a similar societal lens. Awareness seems to be McDonagh’s trademark. His characters are flawed, yet keenly aware of these flaws. His scripts are dark, yet this darkness is carefully tempered by his films’ awareness of the fact that they are films, as his characters are always interacting with the film industry in some way. This awareness allows the viewer to enjoy his films on multiple levels, first on a narrative level and again on a satirical level that tries to provide commentary on humanity through the narrative.
In the case of Seven Psychopaths, McDonagh turns his focused lens on an unfocused, alcoholic screenwriter, Marty (Colin Ferrell). Marty is struggling to write a film called Seven Psychopaths and turns to his friends and their acquaintances for inspirations on ways to characterize his seven different psychopathic characters. What follows is a wild series of events that lead Marty down the literal Psycho-Path to self-realization. As his characters become fleshed out, Marty starts to see that he’s living a detached life. His detached life is illustrated by the flaws of his screenplay. Marty’s writing is not authentic. He borrows from other people’s lives to write his characters, and his tragic personal life causes his women characters to be nothing but fragile stereotypes. His relationship is in shambles, his inspiration is drying up, Marty is desperate for a motivation, and thanks to a mixed up con-gone-wrong by his dog kidnapping grifter friends, Hans and Billy (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell), this motivation comes in the form of an LA underground gangster (Woody Harrelson) who is seriously upset about his kidnapped Shi-tszu.
Seven Psychopaths is a busy film and it is also McDonagh’s most brutal. There is so much going on that its stars only have a matter of minutes to shine. Standouts are Rockwell and Walken. Rockwell’s Billy is a fast-talking idea man. He’s relentless and firing on all cylinders in every scene. Walken plays Hans, who is much more relaxed than Billy, but equally fun to watch. Walken is doing a Walken impression here, which is basically what people have come to want from him in this phase of his career. Regarding its brutality, from the opening scene, the film’s tone is quite clear. While trailers might lead one to believe that the dog kidnapping plotline is central to the story, it is actually a very minor element. The majority of the film’s 109 minutes explores exactly what happens when the “inmates take over the insane asylum.” Desert shootouts, sadistic serial killers, and revenge killings pepper the action of the film. Seven Psychopaths feels inspired by the independent films of the 90s. As it unfolds, it is reminiscent of 1994s Floundering or 1995’s Living in Oblivion not in plot (or in casting James LeGros), but in its meaning. These films blend the effects of fantasy and reality in a compelling way, creating a very enjoyable movie. If only James LeGros could have shown up as an eighth psychopath! B+