By Linc Leifeste | October 14, 2012
Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Linda Bright Clay, Harry Dean Stanton, Long Nguyen
Seven Psycopaths, the second feature directorial effort of director Martin McDonagh, is without a doubt entertaining and more coherent than his debut effort, In Bruges, but that’s not saying that it’s not still a mess. It is. And a mess that ultimately rings hollow. It’s just a good thing that witty banter and bloody psychopathy can be outrageously married at the hip so entertainingly.
Set in LA, Marty (Colin Farrell) is a writer facing writer’s block while working on a screenplay also titled Seven Psychopaths. He’s not helped by what most, if not he himself, would consider a drinking problem of epic proportions, much to the exasperation of his long suffering girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish). He’s buddies with Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), an unemployed actor with aspirations of co-writing with Marty, who pays his bills by working with Hans (Christopher Walken) in a dog-napping enterprise. They steal dogs, wait for the owner to offer a reward and then show up with the dog to collect the reward. But when Billy unknowingly steals a Shih Tzu that belongs to ruthless crime lord Charlie (Woody Harrelson), the trio’s lives are upended and taken on a whirlwind of a ride. Throw into this already volatile mix a masked mystery murderer with a penchant for blowing away violent criminals and leaving behind a jack of diamonds as his calling card along with a newspaper ad placed by Billy asking psychopaths to contact Marty to tell their stories (for inspiration) and you can see how the psychopath count quickly rises to seven.
As well as being overly busy with multiple storylines, including recurring imaginary appearances by a murderous Vietnamese priest (Long Nguyen) and a solemn Quaker (Harry Dean Stanton) both on missions of revenge, the film tries to blend together extreme violence, philosophical questions, emotional intimacy, and humor. It’s a tough balance to pull off and for my tastes, Seven Psychopaths doesn’t do it. It asks lots of interesting questions but never attempts any answers and by the time the credits roll, the viewer is left wondering if McDonagh even cared about the questions or if this was all just a cinematic exercise. As well, the film gives us a touching and well acted arc about Hans’ wife Myra (Linda Bright Clay) and her struggle with cancer but makes you wonder what the point of was by the time their relationship is put to a premature end. First, your heartstrings are being tugged at and then you feel like a big sap for ever caring.
But it’s hard to hold it against McDonagh when he makes the whole damn thing so fun to watch. The performances by Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken are especially strong and from the opening sequence, with quick razor-sharp Tarantino-esque banter between two hit-men that suddenly turns violent to the appearances by a murderous rabbit-cradling Tom Waits all the way through to the hilarious imaginary epic final chapter gun battle, the film is never less than a fun ride. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t take you anywhere.