“What did I just watch?” was the question running around my head as the end credits rolled on Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths. The reason I’ve put the director’s name before the title? This movie was made by an auteur. I don’t know the reality of the filmmaking process on this one but the story that I received was one where the storyteller was in total control.
While this movie doesn’t get nearly as meta as Adaptation, it is the one I kept thinking about as scenes from this movie unfolded. Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter who doesn’t yet know that he has a drinking problem. What he does know is that he needs to deliver a new screenplay to his agents and all he has is a title. If you guessed ‘Seven Psychopaths’, get someone to pat you on the head for being so clever.
Now Marty has a friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) who partners Hans (Christopher Walken) in a weird scheme: they kidnap people’s dogs. That’s right, they make the dogs disappear for a day or two, the owners post signs offering rewards and right on cue Hans turns up with the canine.
Yeah that stuff can get old really quickly, right? Well Mr. McDonagh knows that, which is why he also throws in a bitchy girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) for Marty, a cancer-stricken wife (Linda Bright Clay) for Hans, and an is-she-real-or-isn’t-she lady love for Billy.
Somewhere along the way Billy kidnaps a Shih Tzu belonging to Charlie (Woody Harrelson) a crazed gangster who loves his dog more than he loves his girlfriend (Olga Kurylenko) and as things normally happen when a cocky guy crosses a crazy gangster, stuff gets real ugly really fast.
The performances (especially by any actors fortunate enough to get genuine screen time) are awesome. It looks like Rockwell, Farrell and Walken are having a good old time. While Mr. Walken is well-loved for doing his particular thing and Mr. Rockwell is regularly recognized as the best thing in whatever movie he’s been in, it is here again that Mr. Farrell proves that he is a decent actor (who sometimes picks unfortunate starring vehicles). Mr. Harrelson is effective and Ms. Clay brings a genuinely serene grace to her small role.
This movie takes a pretty zany detour at one point in the storytelling and while that portion does drag on a bit, Mr. McDonagh makes it very apparent that this is how he intended the narrative to progress.
Final Analysis: This is an intensely quotable movie and it is a pleasure to watch those deliciously worded lines delivered by a gifted cast of actors. This the type of filmmaking people probably talk about when they use the word ‘bravura’.
My Advice: Rent this one now! Be warned: the film gets a bit loopy at one point but there are many pleasures to be derived from the writing as well as structure of this movie.