Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken
You may like this if you liked: In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008), Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002) Burn after Reading (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2008)
Marty (Farrell) is an Irish screen writer living in LA suffering from a severe case of writers block while attempting to write his lasts screenplay. All he has is the title of Seven Psychopaths, meanwhile his oddball friend Billy (Rockwell) who steals dogs for a living and then his partner in crime Hans (Walken) returns them to claim the offered reward. Unfortunately things go a bit wrong when they steal the beloved Shih Tzu of a local psychopathic gangster (Woody Harrelson) and a war is started which Marty inadvertently becomes involved. While all this carnage goes on, Marty continues, with help from Billy and Hans, to try and write his script about these seven psychopaths and what actually happens to them often seems to parallel the script he is trying to write.
It is unavoidable to make a comparison between McDonagh and the protagonist here. In Bruges was an exceptional film that was incredibly well written and performed the miracle of combining extreme comedy and extreme violence perfectly. How the hell does he follow that up? Well it appears he has gone all Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation) and written a film about writing a film. This is very dangerous territory as there is a huge risk of appearing smug, pretentious, self-indulgent or all three. Thankfully, in my opinion McDonagh just about pulls it off and produces what is an extremely entertaining and funny film. Though Seven Psychopaths is certainly not perfect and maybe takes advantage of its unique premise to get out of certain plot situations and does not always get away with it.
What works in Seven Psychopaths is that this film never takes itself too seriously and always feels like it is mainly a comedy. The comedy does work extremely well and the laughs are constant throughout the entire narrative. There are some very funny swipes at the action film genre and the likes that any film fans will immensely enjoy. One of the main elements as to why this film is so enjoyable is that the cast are on tremendous goofy form. They have obviously been given freedom to really make their characters as mad as possible, it is quite clear they are having fun, and we certainly have fun watching them.
Maybe when McDonagh gets stuck somewhere it does feel sometimes a little too convenient that he can get out of that narrative situation by getting a character to then admit that is a ridiculous situation, we can then all laugh about it and somehow that is ok. It feels maybe that McDonagh takes advantage of this too many times. There is of course the famous line in the trailer that the female characters are awful, and they pretty much are in Seven Psychopaths, in moments like this it is hard to know if McDonagh is being satirical or just plain lazy. There are also some moments that don’t work for me, such as a subplot about Vietnamese priest feels like it just does not add anything.
In summary, Seven Psychopaths is one of the more enjoyable and genuinely funny comedies of recent time. However, though avoiding being pretentious there is an element of self indulgence and borderline laziness from the director which takes slight advantage of the viewer’s good nature. Do not take it too seriously, and it becomes tremendous fun.