A piece of gleefully silly ultraviolent machismo, writer and director Martin McDonagh follows up his Academy Award nominated In Bruges with this messy, but satisfying comedy about writers, dog kidnappers, the mafia, a stone cold killers.
Uninspired alcoholic writer Martin (Colin Farrell) has only the title for his next film: Seven Psychopaths. He doesn’t even have a plot. While researching his more than slightly uncouth best friend (Sam Rockwell) and his soft-spoken partner in the “dog kidnapping” business (Christopher Walken) pinch the pooch of a noted, deranged mobster (Woody Harrelson) leading to violent reprisal and repercussions.
McDonagh crafts a film that’s equally about the creative process as it’s about generally bad behaviour and gun fights. At times the tough guy posturing can be a bit much; almost as if these guys are trying too hard to impress each other and the audience. Then again, that might be part of what McDonagh’s trying to make a point about.
The story isn’t nearly as tight as McDonagh’s previous film as it bounces wildly between the main story and several subplots only to literally forget about almost all of them by the halfway point. The twists that pile up are also fairly obvious, meaning the sharpness has to come from the dialogue rather than the plot. As a story, it never stops being interesting or hilarious, but structurally it’s almost too meta for its own good. It’s one rewrite away from being a masterpiece instead of just being really good.
The real treat here comes from the leading performances. Farrell – who seems to only get to show off his humour and charm in McDonagh’s films – has wonderful chemistry with the appropriately nutty Rockwell and Walken, who gives the patented performances audiences know best from him. As the man caught between the violent outbursts and nervous tics of his friend and the quiet creepiness of a guy he barely knows, Farrell gives one of the best performances of his career. Harrelson also puts in solid work in a fairly stock gangster role and Tom Waits shows up briefly and memorably as a rabbit toting psychopath with an interesting backstory.
Seven Psychopaths succeeds largely because of the cast and witty repartee. It’s a lot of fun in spite of its faults, They’re minor while watching the film, but they start to become apparent if you start thinking about them.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Top image: A scene from Seven Psychopaths. Courtesy Alliance Films.