Seven Psychopaths is a unique cinema experience to say the least. To put it bluntly, it’s as crazy as a squirrel trapped in a pedal bin. Much like Shane Black’s wonderful Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it’s a chaotic film that’s very self aware. It knows it’s a movie, and so exploits that from start to finish. There are more than a few nods to the camera. But more importantly than that, it’s incredibly funny.
Chances are though once you’ve seen it for the first time you’ll have missed a few things. With Christopher Nolan’s Inception, many people went to see it again because there were plot points that slipped under the wire of complexity. In the case of Seven Psychopaths, you may miss a few jokes, but you’ll want to see it again to judge the ludicrousness of the whole thing. Some of it even takes place in the form of pure fantasy. It’s debatable if the first scene, for example, really happens or it’s just the mental stirrings of the main character. Just like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it doesn’t really matter.
It doesn’t really have a plot either. Just a very complicated dance. Let’s attempt to make sense of it all; Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter struggling with writer’s block. He’s writing a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths, but all he has is the title. So his friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) puts an advert in the local newspaper asking psychopaths with interesting stories to come forward. At the same time, there is a serial killer called the Jack of Diamonds, who’s wondering round LA knocking off bad people. Oh, and there’s also Billy’s friend Hans (Christopher Walken). Together they kidnap dogs and take them back to their rightful owners for a reward. They accidentally kidnap a shih tzu called Bonnie, that belongs to maniac mobster Charlie (Woddy Harrelson). So, Marty, Billy, and Hans all take off into the desert with Bonnie to try and avoid the mobster hell bent on revenge. Phew!
The script is rather glorious, but it’s given that extra massive push forward by what has to be the best ensemble cast of 2012. Colin Farrell as always is better here in the small independent film than he is starring in bigger films, such as the rather dull Total Recall remake. He’s effectively the audience’s eye – the only non-psychopath. It contrast we have Sam Rockwell, who is hilarious as a good friend with the tendencies of a maniac. In one very funny exchange, he points out that Marty can kill off as many of his female characters as he likes, but he can never kill off the animal. Cue another nod to the camera.
Somehow the show still gets stolen, but it should come as no surprise as to who runs away with it. Two words – Christopher Walken. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is that makes his performance so memorable, but he approaches this film with full strength Walken power. It borders at many points on self parody, but pretty much all of his scenes are quotable. Whether it’s his foul mouthed tirade about cops, or a simple but side splitting moment when he refuses to put his hands up at gunpoint, you can see he’s in his element. He can still do dramatic acting as well as the rest of them too. His face-off scene with Woody Harrelson is a wonderfully tense moment. Walken hasn’t been that good since his face-off with Dennis Hooper in True Romance.
For Martin McDonagh, this has to be a benchmark film. Starting out his career as a renowned playwright before bursting onto the film making scene with the terrific In Bruges, McDonagh has proved that he’s one of the best writers of his generation. He’s often compared to Quentin Tarantino, mainly because of the style of his storytelling, and the dialogue that fizzles and crackles. He wrote the script for Seven Psychopaths a couple of years before In Bruges, deciding to approach the latter first, considering the resources needed to attempt the former.
The first scene is the best written moment of the film, and possibly the entire year. Two mob hitmen, Tommy (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Larry (Michael Pitt) are stood on a bridge waiting for their target to come walking past. In proper Tarantino style, the two attempt to make small talk, trying to remember which famous historical figure it was got shot in the eye. Larry says he once stabbed someone in the ear. Tommy colourfully points out that that’s something totally different.
This is where McDonagh is at his most Tarantino-like. He enjoys creating these fascinating and often psychopathic characters, and then stepping back and watching in amazement at what they can do. That’s exactly what McDonagh did with In Bruges. But with Seven Psychopaths, he throws in a story that really only he can tell. It’s a extremely funny and possibly one of the most entertaining films you’ll see this year. A wonderful slice of controlled chaos.
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