Unfamiliar with writer and director Martin McDonagh’s previous gangster film In Burges, I was not exactly sure what I was getting into when watching Seven Psychopaths. I had seen a few trailers and was looking forward to what looked like a quirky new movie that I hoped delivered at least a few solid one-liners but was not expecting much more. Well, I am delighted to say that McDonagh delivers a fantastic self-referential crime caper that is one part Pulp Fiction and one part a meta episode of NBC’s TV show Community.
This self-aware film has a story that is hilarious in its antics and creates a world where these characters come to life. Colin Farrell (In Burges) plays Marty, an alcoholic film writer suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block. He has the title for his next film Seven Psychopaths but little more. However in spite of what the title suggest, Marty does not want his film to be violent. He wants his main psychopath to love more than kill, whch is what appears to be giving Marty the writing block in the first place. Enter Marty’s good friend Bill played by Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2). In an effort to help Marty find inspiration for the characters in his story, Billy encourages and informs Marty of various psychopathic stories he is aware of. He even goes so far as putting a “psycho story” want ad in the paper, asking psycho’s to come to Marty’s house and tell their story. This causes Marty to spend the length of the film trying to create the characters for his story from the crazy interactions going on around him.
While based on “real life” people, these characters are introduced through individual dramatized stories about them complete with glorified over the top cartoon like violence that hits home as visual comedy. From the Quaker psychopath who stalks his daughter’s killer, to the psychopath who spent his youth killing other psycho killers, to the Vietnamese Psychopath who just seems crazy for most of the movie. These stories give us a glimpse into the psychopathic mind of Marty and friends and help create a visual world where anything seems possible from these characters.
In addition to these characters, Marty has to deal with a “real life” shih-tzu-loving psycho gangster Charlie played by Woody Harrelson (Natural Born Killers), when Billy and friend Hans (Christopher Walken, Poolhall Junkies) “accidently” kidnap Charlie’s dog in their regular dog-napping scheme to collect a found reward from owners. This interaction with Charlie helps Marty, Billy and Hans figure out the story to Seven Psychopaths that borrows from their own in-film “real life” experience.
The ensemble cast all hit their mark in his film. Each shows us enough of their characters to fit their quirky stereotypes but gives us something memorable about each. No more is this shown through Rockwell’s performance of Billy that builds on his lunacy throughout the film until his shining moment, a scene where he is telling Marty how he would finish his story. In addition, Walken delivers his best performance in years with his traditional over the top serious but hysterical Walken Style. Any fan of his should not miss this film.
Seven Psychopaths turned out to be an enjoyable experience and thrill ride from start to finish. The ensemble cast breathes life into the crazy characters that help move along the action. It is a film that is self-aware and does not take its self too seriously. As such, we are delivered an eccentric but entertaining film experience that anyone looking for a change of pace should not miss.
4.5 stars out of 5