Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken
Directed by: Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”)
Written by: Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”)
In a scene pulled straight from the Quentin Tarantino playbook, “Seven Psychopaths” opens with two assassins having an innocuous, and quite funny conversation about shooting people through the eyeball. It’s unique, quick-witted and sets the tone for the rest of the film. It’s also incredibly well-written, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the source. After writer and director Martin McDonagh made his mark as an accomplished playwright and wrote and directed his Academy Award-winning short film “Six Shooter,” McDonagh wrote and directed his first feature, 2008’s “In Bruges,” which won him critical acclaim and a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination. Though less successful than his first film, “Seven Psychopaths” still carries some of the traits that make McDonagh stand out as a true talent.
“Seven Psychopaths” follows Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell), a screenwriter struggling to pen his next film. Marty’s friend Billy Bickle, (Sam Rockwell) who desperately wants to help him write the script, works with his partner-in-crime Hans (Christopher Walken) to kidnap dogs for rewards. When Billy kidnaps a dog from angry gangster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), Charlie will stop at nothing to get it back, bringing Marty, Hans and Billy into his sights.
Though it’s marketing materials make it seem like there is a giant ensemble cast, the film truly belongs to Farrell, Rockwell, Walken and a bit of Harrelson. While Farrell is good as the straight-man, Rockwell and Walken steal the movie. The grossly underrated Rockwell shines as the unstable and violence-obsessed Billy, executing stupidity and brash personality perfectly. Once again, Rockwell proves to be incredibly versatile and truly shows his capability of carrying a film. Though he doesn’t do much else than play a variation of his eccentric self, Walken soaks up McDonagh’s material and fits right in with his counterparts to form a great chemistry between the trio.
If there’s one thing that holds “Seven Psychopaths” back, it’s the films narrative ADD. Since there is a screenplay within the film, McDonagh shows scenes that function as Marty’s would-be movie intertwined with the dog-napping situation that is currently happening. Nonetheless, McDonagh’s best material comes in the scenes of Marty’s potential film, none better than a brilliantly written scene about a revenge seeking Quaker. In line with the dark comedic tone that McDonagh masters, there are plenty of memorable moments of sheer excessive comic violence. In a particularly uproarious scene, Billy pitches his idea for the film that is so gloriously over the top, and expertly performed by Rockwell.
Fans of “In Bruges,” shouldn’t expect the levels of rapid-fire, whip-smart brilliance that McDonagh’s earlier film provided. What can be expected, however, is a unique, unapologetic, filthy and darkly funny movie experience. While there are some problems with “Seven Psychopaths,” particularly with the occasionally wobbly narrative structure and a stronger first half, the film succeeds on McDonagh’s satirical and meta screenplay, which could possibly be a dark horse contender for another original screenplay nomination come Oscar time.