Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken
Director: Martin McDonagh
There was a time, when a film called Seven Psychopaths could accurately describe the Adventure Amigo site staff, but alas the film I am here to talk to you about is the comedy from writer-director Martin McDonagh.
The multi faceted story follows Marty (Farrell), a screenwriter who is trying to pen a script about seven psychopaths, his friend Billy (Rockwell), an unemployed actor who does a little dog-napping on the side to scam some money out of emotional dog owners, and Billy’s partner in crime, Hans (Walken).
One day, Billy steals a shih tzu from a dogwalker, not knowing the canine actually belongs to a gangster, Charlie (Harrelson). As you can imagine, the unpredictable Charlie doesn’t take too kindly to his pet being stolen, and goes about seeking revenge on the group. Marty, uninvolved in the original ‘napping, unfortunately get’s caught up in the action, testing his friendship with Billy.
Seven Psychopaths is a curious film. Billed as a crime comedy, and coming from the same mind that bought us the cult classic In Bruges, I was going into the film with some optimism. In truth the trailers had not particularly grabbed my attention, but I was expecting this to be an over-the-top chaotic calamity of misunderstandings.
For a comedy, however, the laughs were few and far between. I am no stranger to the subtler arts of comic writing, with Sideways being one of my firm favourites, but Seven Psychopaths was so unfunny in parts, that it verges on serious drama.
Take, for example, the scene early the film when Marty is telling people about the first psychopath he has written in his screenplay, a Quaker who seeks revenge on the killer of his daughter. A husky Farrell narrates while we are served a cut scene lasting several minutes showing us the tragic story. I will concede this tale does have some relevance later on, but it is hardly chortle-worthy.
Apart from the dearth of fun, the performances themselves were ok, although given the cast, could have been better. Walken, usually one of the biggest psychos in any film he appears in, was sadly a little understated in this, although this was due to his character, not the actor. Hans has a cancer-stricken wife, and although he is involved in criminal schemes, he does so to help her.
Farrell and Rockwell also put in solid turns, however the chemistry between the characters was a little weak. Not necessarily the fault of the men portraying them, but I didn’t actually feel that the friendship between Marty and Billy was particularly realistic. Marty had his faults, but at times it felt a little one-sided, with Marty being the “older brother” of the pair. Sure, Billy is concerned about Marty’s drinking “problem”, which wasn’t really that bad, but given Billy is pretty much a sociopath, it seems unlikely he would have that issue in real life.
The strongest performer of the bunch was Harrelson, who is also probably the only one who seems to have fun in his role throughout. Whilst the lengths he goes to to get his dog back are extreme and somewhat farcical, he is probably the only character who I enjoyed watching.
The area I am most positive about, however, is the writing. Whilst I have issues with the characters themselves, the dialogue between them is by far the best aspect. This is obviously something that McDonagh excels at, as it was also one of the strong points of In Bruges. The second half of the movie is mainly concerned with the relationships between Marty, Billy and Hans, and with very little distraction, we are given a good half hour of just them conversing about their current predicament, the finale of Marty’s script and various other things.
That being said, whilst the dialogue is good, the interwoven stories are all a little too complex given this is essentially a movie about a stolen dog. I will give credit to McDonagh, in that he does well to conclude all of the mini-stories, even remembering to tie up Tom Wait’s cameo character, however there are times when the film is just a little over-egged and self-referential for my taste.
Is Seven Psychopaths a bad film? Not particularly. I used an expletive to describe it to a friend earlier, and in retrospect that was wrong. It’s not a bad film, but it isn’t the film they are selling it to be. I was expecting something wacky but got something more dramatic, and less interesting. Sadly, it just isn’t crazy enough for me.
Did you know? Mickey Rourke was originally cast to play Charlie, but due to conflicts with the producer the role was eventually offered to Harrelson. In the film, a gravestone can be seen with the name “Rourke” on it, suggesting the producer was not willing to let things go easily.