Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Written By: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken
Former playwright Martin McDonagh has made the transition from the stage to film look seamless and easy. With his 2008 film In Bruges and the recent release of Seven Psychopaths McDonaugh has shown that no matter what the format he is able to bring his strong sense of style and coarse attitude to make remarkable characters that are equal parts funny and ridiculous. Seven Psychopaths is a layered concept that will have you digging for days to find all the different comments and criticisms it makes about cinema. Luckily it never gives lost in its own head and remembers to provide plenty of entertainment. McDonagh’s direction and clever writing has attracted a stellar cast that made sure to bring their A game. It may not have been as thought provoking as it could have, but it does provide everything you could want in a sick and perverse comedy.
The film centers around a struggling screenwriter aptly named Marty, played by Colin Farrell. Colin Farrell can frequently be misused and become a charisma vacuum that lacks any type of personality. Especially when he’s placed into cookie cutter studio films like this past summer’s Total Recall remake. When he has the right director behind him, like Martin McDonagh, he is able to let loose and show his true talents. That was the case in In Bruges and that case is repeated here. His character Marty is having trouble coming up with his next script. To this point all his has is a title again aptly named Seven Psychopaths, and the name of one of the psychopaths. He knows more story is there he is just unable to find it. Meta has had a quick climb to the top of our popular lexicon, and we are beginning to see its effects all over the place. Many forms of entertainment have come out that break that fourth wall to comment on themselves, often yielding a variety of different results. When done with a fine hand it can really enhance the movie going experience and provide a deeper meaning to what would otherwise be insignificant. McDonagh surely has the talent needed to pull of what Seven Psychopaths is attempting. Part of it is a personal reflection, part is a dissection into Hollywood’s standards, and part is a comment on our own expectations. Even with so much going on he never forgets the most important piece. He keeps us entertained.
Part of what keeps the enjoyment coming is the rotation of talent that is the cast list. With names like Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, and Sam Rockwell you have a depth of talent most films can’t compete with. Sam Rockwell plays Marty’s actor friend Billy, who also has a dog ‘borrowing’ business on the side. Along with his partner Hans, played by Walken, they will kidnap dogs and return them to their owners to collect the reward. Not the most charitable vocation, but a lucrative one. Things become a little harrier when Billy mistakenly kidnaps the dog of a vicious gangster. Woody Harrelson plays Charlie the deadly crime boss who will cut down anyone to get his beloved dog back. Marty inadvertently gets caught up in all of this as Billy, Hans, and himself attempt to flee and escape the wrath of Charlie. Though his life is in danger this adventure may be the motivation he needs to finally finish his screenplay. The supporting cast adds a lot of the flavor to this colorful tale. Sam Rockwell is fabulous as this unbalanced and outrageous character. McDonaugh gives him some of the best lines in the film, and Rockwell takes what he is given and knocks it out of the park. Not to be out done is Christopher Walken in one of his best roles in years. Walken can quickly become a charactercher of himself, and I was worried we would get more of the same here. This performance is far more dialed down. While he brings the funny he also brings a lot of reverence to his character. The comedic side is muted at times to allow for moments that are deep and moving. Woody Harrelson also has a character that is all over the map. He’s sadistic, but does it all in good taste. This film certainitly has one of the best supporting casts of year by far. So much is asked for them, and they give even more.
The premise of Seven Psychopaths is just the fine line that unites us with a barrage of ideas and concepts that scrutinize and investigate our own perceptions and understanding of film. Nothing is done by accident or as simple as it may seem on first glance. McDonaugh prods us to look at the way violence is conceived, and how our expectations are often what drive outcomes. He questions the role of women and the lack of respect they are regularly given. Nothing is overtly stated as everything stays in the framework of the story. In the end I do question if the analysis comes to any type of a conclusions or thesis. It was an exercise that I enjoyed being a part of, but the desire to entertain won out over a wiliness to go further with its own ideals. Plus with so much going on it was difficult to simply accept things as they happen. You dissect each moment in an attempt determine what it connects to and what it could possibly be commenting on so much you end up getting lost in your own thought process. Progressively what is right in front of you takes a back seat to your own contemplations. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you get your mind going you need it to feed you something psychologically satisfying. It does satisfy on that level to a certain degree. However, based on what is there you cannot help but leave wanting more. McDonagh does throw a lot at us and most of it will stick. What could have been a solely intellectual exercise turned into one hell of a twisted adventure. On the more fundamental levels it finds great success. The comedy is funny, the drama is effective, and the action is well crafted. When you go deeper things do falter to a point, but you have to commend what it attempted to accomplish. Even if the entire plan didn’t completely flourish what did was a fantastic good time.