Martin McDonagh‘s Seven Psychopaths is a wild and rambunctious piece of work that puts together a slew of some of the finest talent working in Hollywood today under a director known for his dark sense of humor and layered storytelling. Seven Psychopaths is often-times an unhinged look at the ever-changing landscape of Hollywood as McDonagh adapts, alters and even pays respect to multiple genres and specific films. Seven Psychopaths is a warm reminder of what makes movie-going so damn exiting and surprising.
Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter without a completed script. He’s working on something called “Seven Psychopaths”, but all he has is a vague idea of a character and an ending that goes against the grain of Hollywood, without violent shootouts between cookie-cutter gangsters and thugs. Marty wants his script to be smarter than most garbage that gets tunneled through the studio system. He’s a bit of a drinker and a procrastinator, which means he wastes most of his time bull-shitting with his friend Billy (Sam Rockwell).
Billy proposes several zany ideas for Marty to use in his script, but he’s kind of a lunatic that barks out random ideas left and right without much thought. Marty does his best to transcribe Billy’s rants, but most of it is just mindless chatter.
That’s okay though, because where Billy loses focus in the screenwriting game he picks up in knowledge of the dog-napping world. He and his friend Hans (Christopher Walken) run a little project where they snatch up dogs and return them for the finder’s fee. Billy usually does the pooch stealing, while Hans collects the dough with his innocent demeanor and harmless old-man appearance.
The two numbskulls screw up big time when they abduct the Shih Tzu of gangster/gun-wielder Charlie (Woody Harrelson). This of course leads to Charlie going on a rampage to get his prized puppy back, with Marty stuck in the middle watching the blood spray and the alcohol disappear as Hans and Billy try and figure out a plan that involves them not dying and Marty getting the story he always wanted.
Director Martin McDonagh follows the highly-praised In Bruges (also starring Colin Farrell) with an outlandish crime-comedy that feels very close to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs in spirit. Seven Psychopaths might look like an ensemble heist-gone-wrong film with a few clever lines, but it’s actually a dissection of the genre, taking plenty of jabs at lazy clichés that have manifested over time, while also paying a great deal of respect to some classics that helped change and form the genre.
McDonagh is quick on his feet and keeps Seven Psychopaths one step ahead of you at all time. Just when you think you’ve got a finger on what he’s trying to do he cuts the cord and runs the other way with it. It’s this always-on-the-go approach that makes the witty dialogue stick and the psychotic characters memorable.
Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Collin Farrell insert their own brand of comedy into their respective roles, helping turn the film’s crazier and dark moments into pure gold. Rockwell is all-over-the-place as Billy. He’s smart and thoughtful one moment and then completely lost and ready to snap the next. McDonagh was smart to give the most-layered role to Rockwell, because he fits in so naturally as the best friend with enough secrets and problems to make you want to jump out of a moving car.
Walken and Farrell approach their roles with a little more sanity, but still enough mystery to keep you guessing their true motives. It’s always nice seeing Farrell lighten up and play a character he’s not usually known for (see Horrible Bosses) and he just seems to work very well with McDonagh. The two understand how to make the character of Marty the unofficial lead of the film, while still giving the others plenty of room to shine and expand. Walken’s role is something that he was born to play. He’s hopeless and just kind of goes with the flow, making almost every altercation with an armed thug something that you’ll be laughing over long after the film is over. Walken’s got a force inside him that can’t be explained, but whenever you see him you’ll immediately start to smile and laugh.
There’s a lot of cameo appearances in the film that McDonagh drops in here and there to remind you of his distinctive vision for the film and every single one of them works. I won’t even spoil them by name dropping, because part of the fun is watching known stars pop up out of nowhere.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect with Seven Psychopaths. I was mostly unmoved by In Bruges when I first saw it, but I’m now thinking a re-watch is definitely in order, because I really don’t remember a damn thing about the flick. It did however make me go into Seven Psychopaths with low expectations and I am almost glad, because the surprise was much more rewarding.
Seven Psychopaths is something that you can’t forget and something that you’ll want to go back and re-watch just to pick up on all of the subtle references and some of the less obvious influences it pays homage to. McDonagh has made a film that instantly will imprint itself in your brain. The rambling dialogue almost always feels improvised and loose, making the jokes feel more organic, resulting in harder laughs that will remain fresh in your memory.
Seven Psychopaths is far from the norm. It’s presented as random and hard to pin down, but it’s actually a smartly penned film that works on multiple levels at once. McDonagh has clearly done his homework constructing the film and making something wholly original. It’s an instant cult classic that I can see a lot of people discovering on the home video front and not so much theatrically, which is a shame, because films like this need audiences support to help fund future projects for talented filmmakers like Martin McDonagh.
Seven Psychopaths – 8.5/10