#362: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

sevenI’m in the minority who just didn’t ‘get’ Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. The Beckettian sparse comedy fell flat, the boozed up Colin Farrell was whiny and annoying, and an otherwise reliable Brendan Gleeson stood on looking exasperated; most shocking of all was the austere Ralph Fiennes stealing the limelight as loose canon henchman Harry. Such lack of enthusiasm meant that I had little to no expectation for McDonagh’s follow-up movie Seven Psychopaths. Replacing the dry British humour with crude genre parody, the acclaimed theatre playwright’s second feature sees him being so nakedly reflexive about the nature of filmmaking, matched with a off-kilter genre irreverence which comes right out of the Tarantino handbook.

It’s the story within a story tale of Marty (Colin Farrell) a budding screenwriter with a pen in one hand, and a bottle in the other. He spends his days boozed up, slaving over a new movie project, but only able to come up with a name, ‘Seven Psychopaths’. Thrown out by his discerning girlfriend (Abbie Cornish), he moves in with best friend Billy Bickle, a wisecracking punk who, along with the cravat adorning cool dude Hans (Walken), makes a living stealing dogs and returning them to distraught LA pet lovers for a hefty reward sum.

Their business backfires after they wind up a Shih Tzu named Bonnie, owned by a gun toting, dangerously unstable mafioso Charlie (Harrelson). A final showdown is in order, but not before a Waiting For Godot desert hideout, a few more cliched flashbacks and the trio bouncing around script ideas.

Without trying to labour the point, Tarantino, Tarantino fucking Tarantino. It may sound like a sweeping generalisation, but I just couldn’t get his far superior films out of my head whilst watching this. It’s nothing about the genre or narrative, rather the priggish, postmodernist exercise in style – mixing black comedy with bloodied violence and atypical gangster misogyny; the last of which McDonagh awkwardly tries to redeem with a knowing wink to the audience when Hans criticises Marty’s script for mistreating the pointless female characters.

Like Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation the reflexive screenwriter is a fantastic premise, and could have been well served within the irreverent snapshot of LA gang culture. Unfortunately, Seven Psychopaths is inflated with too many half-wit ideas, quips, stylistic nodes and, most crucially, too many damn psychopaths that the kernel of a good movie gets lost.

Even still, Seven Psychopaths is still worth a look, even just for that rare glimpse of Tom Waits performing as a bunny wielding “killer of killers”, and Christopher Walken in his total element as a dog mapper with a dark history.
IMDb / Trailer

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