Psychopaths, by nature, tend to stand out. They must call attention to themselves, lose their minds over the most trivial things, or they’re the creepy quiet one that will saw your head off at a moment’s notice. Imagine having to write these guys. Or hang out with them. Writer/Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) imagined seven of these maniacs doing all of this in a familiar yet comfy crime caper Seven Psychopaths.
Since the film is set in L.A, I will try to use the vernacular appropriate to the setting. Logline: Bottle Rocket meets Seven Samurai, about an alcoholic writer (Colin Farrell) who gets caught up in his friend (Sam Rockwell) and his partner’s (Christopher Walken) dognapping scheme when they take a shih tzu belonging to a psychopathic mobster (Woody Harrelson). Being a psychopath, the mobster will do anything to get his beloved dog back, putting the dognappers and the writer on the run, where they learn more about each other, and not in some emotional coming of age Stand by Me feel-goody way.
The dialogue between the characters at such moments is well done by the actors, but it seems self-serving at times and gets in the way of the story. Plus it’s all stuff we’ve heard before. For example the opening scene, a picturesque setting at the Hollywood reservoir, is treated with two mobsters talking about shooting out eyeballs. Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Pitt do the dialogue very well, but it is easy shock laughs that we have seen in Snatch and about a dozen Scorsese films.
I get that part of the idea of this film is the ‘film-within-a-film’ concept, and Seven Psychopaths does get the irony, but where the more serious moments are treated so, it mugs its way through rest. Too much self-awareness- no one likes a comedian who laughs harder than anyone else at his own jokes.
But I did have fun, despite the rote filmmaking. The film is cast very well, Walken, although the most guilty of the aforementioned mugging, is still glorious to watch. Sam Rockwell seems very comfortable where he is and Woody continues to make good decisions regarding his film career. The script isn’t bad, it’s just unoriginal, but I also think that McDonagh understood this which is how we got the excellent ending we did.
I would greenlight this film with some reservations. Keep the budget down (see a matinee or discounted show), and lots of explosions! It is more fun if you just buckle in and enjoy it! McDonagh never seemed to take his own film seriously, why should we?
This film opens October 12th, watch the trailer.