Stories about writers struggling to find something to write about always give the impression that they were written by a writer who couldn’t think of anything else to write about. Usually this is a mistake but not in the case of Seven Psychopaths if indeed this was Martin McDonagh’s problem. Somehow I doubt it.
Colin Farrell plays the writer-director’s namesake Marty, a big name Hollywood pen who wants to write a movie about psychopaths that defies genre conventions. With a little help from his oddball friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) he finds himself in a series of bizarre situations with some real nutjobs including Woody Harrelson’s mob boss, a man desperate to retrieve his beloved kidnapped Shih Tzu.
Coming off the back of McDonagh’s previous film, the brilliant In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths hits a lot of the same notes with its bleakly comic tone and quotable script stuffed with real zingers and touching moments. Farrell’s role, although central, is somewhat more understated in this film. Here he plays the exasperated man in the middle witness to the madness that is inexorably to him but lacking any control. He’s fine but the memorable performances come from Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson who play their respective loonies with the air of men having a hoot.
In his desire to create a film about a sextet of psychopaths Marty finds himself starring in his own story of exactly that description although at least one of the psychos is imagined. The result of this is a film that is extremely meta; Marty is clearly in his own film and one imagines the result of his work will play out exactly like his experiences but there is a strange sense of a missed opportunity. The character’s aim is to challenge genre conventions in his writing but the film itself knowingly does not. There is a shootout, there is blood and although the psyche of each nut is looked into in interesting ways one can’t help but wonder if Marty’s film might have ultimately been more profound than the one we actually get.
Not that what we get is anything less than a joy. Seeing a star-studded cast working on full blast with a material delivered by a very talented writer is a real treat and those enamoured by In Bruges will be well entertained.
With memorable performances from a top-notch cast that make the material sing Seven Psychopaths comes highly recommended.