Review: Seven Psychopaths

(MA15+) ***

Director: Martin McDonagh.

Cast: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish.

IRISH playwright Martin McDonagh created a cult favourite with swear-heavy purgatory parable In Bruges.

For his follow-up, McDonagh again mines an alternative vein, creating another profanity-laden niche black-comedy that also finds Farrell in good form and should appeal to fans of In Bruges, despite being a very different beast.

Farrell plays Marty, an Irish screenwriter struggling to complete his screenplay for a film called Seven Psychopaths.

Offering him assistance is his annoying actor friend Billy (Rockwell), who has a sideline with his pal Hans (Walken) in dognapping and collecting the rewards offered by distraught owners.

But one of those owners (Harrelson) is not content with posting a reward - he wants to kill everyone who gets between him and his shih tzu Bonnie, drawing Marty into a world of real-life psychopaths that are far more terrifying and unexpected than anything he could have come up with for his script.

With its title being about a script of the same name, Seven Psychopaths gets into some very "meta" territory. It revels in its own post-modernity - in discussing the script within the movie, the film gets to embrace and ridicule cinematic conventions at every turn.

From the cliche of the final shootout to the role of women in movies, from the American fetishism of violence to the use of dream sequences in cinema, it cleverly skewers the tropes of Hollywood while gleefully carrying them out. For the most part, it manages to have its cake and eat it too.

It's also funny in an often dark way. One character's possible alcoholism is treated as a serious problem in the face of largely ignored violence, and an extended section involving characters trying to figure out how to end Marty's movie riffs on the insanity of movies such as The Expendables.

The cast is great - Farrell is good but overshadowed, becoming a headlining passenger along for the ride. Rockwell's idiosyncracies are hilarious, Tom Waits just about steals the show, and Walken and Harrelson each do what they do so well.

So why only three stars? As enjoyable as this movie is, there are holes. Some of its attempts at being clever come up as overly convenient. This could be tight scriptwriting, but in hindsight it feels a bit like cheating.

It stretches its post-modern "hey look at us mocking making movies while we make a movie" joke to breaking point, and despite it being satisfying at the time it's troubling afterwards if you start thinking about character motivations and backstories, and realise that it doesn't quite gel.

In my heart I want to give this four stars, but I know it's actually only a three-star movie. As fun and funny as it is, as incredibly cool and sneaky its meta-movie plot is, Seven Psychopaths is disjointed and doesn't make sense in places. Too many characters seem strange for the sake of being strange and there's a feeling that there may be one too many ideas in there as part of a desperate attempt to shoehorn in a couple more themes.

Marty (Farrell), Hans (Walken), Billy (Rockwell) and Bonnie the shih tzu in Seven Psychopaths.

Marty (Farrell), Hans (Walken), Billy (Rockwell) and Bonnie the shih tzu in Seven Psychopaths.


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