Film review: Seven PsychopathsBy Kim Francis
December 05, 2012
When London-born playwright Martin McDonagh made violent comedy crime drama In Bruges, he made an instant impact on the big screen. Four years later, his second feature, Seven Psychopaths, proves it was no fluke.
In Seven Psychopaths, McDonagh assembles the right mix of ingredients to create another perfectly baked, darkly comic crime thriller.
Collaborating again with Colin Farrell, the Irish actor is the constant that allows McDonagh to be a little looser with his direction this time around, letting his actors have fun with their roles to give the film a greater sense of playfulness than his first feature.
With a cast that includes acting giants Christopher Walken, Harry Dean Stanton and lunatic-for-hire Sam Rockwell, he’d have been stupid not to let these guys off the leash. And they repay him by cooking up a fabulously entertaining Hollywood satire.
Farrell’s chemistry with Rockwell ensures the early parts of the film tick along nicely, as Farrell’s Marty Faranan struggles to pen a screenplay and his best friend, Rockwell’s dognapper Billy Bickle, attempts to help him find the inspiration to get things moving. In the process, the two become drawn into LA’s criminal underworld, bringing them into contact with some colourful – and dangerous – characters who provide plenty of material for Marty’s script.
McDonagh’s film is a tantalising blend of affection and distaste for the industry he’s working for. Though he condemns in particular contemporary gangster flicks and the Hollywood machine, he also celebrates the things he denigrates, through a simultaneous revelry in the elements that go into a generic crime drama.
McDonagh’s success with Seven Psychopaths is in the carefully-measured balance of humour, violence and drama. It’s sometimes quite menacing, in the tradition of gangster films, but never so much that the overriding light-hearted tone is extinguished, or altered beyond redemption.
There are moments of seriousness amid the ridiculousness and dark humour – notably the scene in the hospital with Christopher Walken’s wife and Woody Harrelson’s character, where we get a lump in our throats. It’s scenes like this that secure the audience’s emotional investment in the film, meaning we walk out feeling exhilarated, moved and entertained. McDonagh gives us the whole package for a better viewing experience.
McDonagh’s bold, politically incorrect humour peppers the script, adding shock value to the laughs. Of course, everyone’s a target so there’s no singling out, and no offence meant, and with the fantastic cast that boasts Walken as the standout and also includes Tom Waits and Abbie Cornish, there’s a richly layered concoction here to delight the unshockable.