I’ve been a huge fan of Martin McDonagh since I first saw Six Shooter, and if there’s one thing he’s really good at, it’s making you laugh at things that would otherwise be quite emotionally disturbing. We saw it in Six Shooter, we saw more with In Bruges, and he delivered once again with Seven Psychopaths. Though, before we get into any substance, the title’s a bit misleading; technically speaking, only one, maybe two of the characters would actually qualify as psychopaths. It should really be called Five Emotionally Disturbed People and Two possible psychopaths, but that title isn’t as catchy. Anyway, I shan’t digress any further.
The story is simple, yet, as Hans noted at one point, it’s got a lot of levels. We have Marty (Colin Farrell), an Irish, alcoholic writer with an eccentric friend named Billy (Sam Rockwell) who, with Hans (Christopher Walken), is in the business of stealing dogs and returning them for a finder’s fee. Eventually Billy steals a dog from a crime boss named Charlie (Woody Harrelson) and shenanigans ensue. Poor Marty gets dragged into all this murder an mayhem when all he wants to do is write a screenplay for a movie called, you guessed it, Seven Psychopaths. Except, instead of creating his own characters, he bases all of them on stories he’s heard from Billy, the news, and other people’s ideas.
So Charlie, distraught over his stolen dog, tracks down Billy, Hans, and by association, Marty, and they’re forced to flee to the desert to regroup and think of a strategy. While sitting around the camp fire they Help Marty finish his screenplay, with Billy contributing an ending that could fit as an appropriate ending in almost any 80s action movie, and then proceeds to influence events in a way so that he could go out in a big shootout, just like he described.
What I really loved about this movie though, was its little wink at Adaptation. For those who remember Adaptation, you’ll see the similarity, but for those who haven’t seen it: 1) go see it immediately 2) the plot of both movies is that the writer of the movie you’re actually watching has written himself into the screenplay showing his attempt at writing the movie. And, in both movies, the writer is unable to complete the work on his own and relies on someone else to help finish the story. In Adaptation, Charlie couldn’t find the story in the book he was writing, and gets his twin brother Donald to help write the second half. In Seven Psychopaths, Marty (the fictional stand in for Martin McDonagh) based all his characters on stories he hears through the events in the movie. Psycho 1 – The Jack of Diamonds, who he gets from a newspaper article Billy shows him, of a guy who’s been going around killing gangsters. Psycho 2 – the quaker, based on a story that Billy tells Marty about a guy who found his daughter murdered and followed the killer around everywhere until he drove the killer mad to the point that he slit his throat just to get away from the quaker. Psycho 3 – a Buddhist monk for whom Hans ends up rewriting the ending. Psycho 4 – Tom Waits shows up in the movie as a psycho telling Marty his own story in the hopes that it ends up in the movie (god I love that man). Anyway, I won’t keep going so as not to ruin some of the spoilers, but you guys get the point.
Then there’s the acting, and boy was that fucking brilliant. Christopher Walken really brought something special to his character. His acting as of late has been mostly a parody of himself, and I can’t remember a movie I liked with him since Catch Me if You Can. But here, he really brought real depth to his character. He was funny, he was witty, and he was dark and emotional; there’s a lot that could have gone wrong with Hans as a character, and Walken didn’t falter. Then there’s Colin Farrell, who I really like but think he suffers from some poor career decisions (Alexander anyone?). But when he has a script to work with and a Director who can push him, Farrell really does shine. We saw that before with Minority Report, saw it a little in Crazy Heart, and we definitely saw it in In Bruges. He and McDonagh might have a Scorcese-DeNiro thing going here, and they should really keep working together. Sam Rockwell was great too, and probably had the most difficult character to deal with. He had to make his character both lovable and sympathetic, and at times frightening. It was a lot to take on, and Rockwell delivered perfectly. They really all did a great job, and if I go on tooting everyone’s horns this post will never end, so I’ll just sum it up by say that everyone did a damn good job here.
The movie is dark, hilarious, but dark and it’s definitely worth seeing if you like that kind of comedy. If you’ve previously seen In Bruges or Six Shooter and didn’t like it, then this movie isn’t for you. Of course, if you’ve seen those movies and didn’t like them, you should really reevaluate your taste in film.