Martin McDonagh follows up his brilliant debut In Bruges with this similarly foul-mouthed but still supremely funny crime movie. The plot centres on a series of eccentric criminals in Los Angeles and we specifically follow Marty (Colin Farrell), a screenwriter struggling with his script he has called “Seven Psychopaths,” who inadvertently gets mixed up with the mob when his friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), kidnaps the Shih Tzu of a dangerous gangster (Woody Harrelson).
Although perhaps not as deep and meaningful as In Bruges, which had a dark but still very much beating emotional heart, Seven Psychopaths is nevertheless an impressive follow-up to the director’s initial deserved success. McDonagh’s whip sharp and knowingly funny script is undoubtedly Tarantino-esque but it avoids being derivative. There’s swearing aplenty and the humour revels in being completely non-PC but the mark of a good screenwriter playing in that particular sandbox is that it has a comically effective backbone.
McDonagh’s script is made even better thanks to one of the year’s best casts including the likes of Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and a bunny-holding Tom Waits who are all on top form and clearly having a blast. Each of them are distinctly written and played note-perfectly, with Walken and Rockwell in particular being an absolute hoot, the latter providing what might be the funniest scene all year in which he describes the ludicrous bullet-ridden way he’d like Marty’s script to end. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.
A fair criticism could be chucked at the movie in that the women characters – primarily played by Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko – are quite thinly drawn and only really there to serve as conversational fodder for the guys’ smart talkin’ or, indeed, victims of violence. At one point Walken’s character actually makes a point of saying that the women characters in Marty’s script are awful. But there’s enough of a humorous vein of meta self-awareness running through the film that I think it gets away with it.
The structure of the movie is very interesting in terms of how it goes through who each of the titular maniacs are, jumping back and forth as their attributes and back stories are touched on. These only intermittently impact directly on the main story thread while at others times only being tangentially relevant to explore a certain theme. Again, very Tarantino-esque but it works well for what McDonagh is going for and adds once again to the meta feel of the film. It brilliantly plays around with the way stories are told, a twisted loved letter to the very idea of it, how tales can get passed along and contorted until the facts and even the origin becomes scrambled. And it’s also an off-kilter insight into the screenwriting business which would make it an interesting double-bill with this year’s Argo.
Thanks to a terrific cast and a golden script Seven Psychopaths succeeds admirably in what it’s aiming to be. It sits alongside the recent Sightseers as a very clever, and more importantly extremely entertaining black comedy where no matter who’s getting shot or what the random topic of conversation is it never forgets to tickle the savvy funny bone.
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Seven Psychopaths is out in UK cinemas on Wednesday December 5th.