Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seven Psychopaths

Directed by Martin McDonagh.
2012. Rated R, 110 minutes.
Tom Waits
Linda Bright Clay
Michael Stuhlbarg
Helena Mattsson
Kevin Corrigan

Marty (Farrell) is a Hollywood screenwriter and the world is anxiously awaiting his next masterpiece. He’s titled it “Seven Psychopaths,” but that’s pretty much as far as he’s gotten. His bestest buddy Billy (Rockwell) wants to help him write the thing and offers up some inspiration in the form of a story he heard in a bar and a newspaper article about an actual nut job, still at large, called the Jack ‘O Diamonds killer who goes around murdering members of the mob. Before long, real life intervenes when Billy’s “job” brings a genuine psychopath their way. He’s part of a dog-napping scheme with Hans (Walken). The two snatch up some poor unsuspecting canine then later return it to the owner for the reward money. It just so happens that their latest acquisition belongs to local gangster Charlie (Harrelson). Let’s just say he’s not planning on paying to get his dog back.

From the outset, we realize this is going to be a hyper-violent comedy. That the scenery will be blood-soaked is a given. The question is whether or not it can maintain the humor aspect. Thankfully it does, for the most part. Writer-director Martin McDonagh, who gave us the incredible In Bruges, crafts a script that’s borderline self-parody. It echoes sentiments others may have about his own work or of these sorts of movies, in general, purposely and sarcastically reinforcing them. Most noticeably, this includes apparent misogyny. Through other characters questioning Marty on his handling of his female characters, it becomes McDonagh fielding questions from critics. Through the course of the movie, his answer seems to be a defiantly waved middle finger. This doesn't make what happens pro-feminist in any way, but makes it easier to take because we sense the movie is aware of what it’s doing and simply trying to push our buttons.

The actors themselves also help push our buttons. Pulling off the delicate balance between graphic violence and snarky humor always requires strong performances. This movie has them in spades. The constant banter between Farrell and Rockwell works wonderfully as both men turn in stellar work. To compliment them, Woody Harrelson and Chrisopher Walken absolutely steal every scene either of them are in. This keeps the movie moving along at a snappy pace. Between the action and these guys tearing up the screen, Seven Psychopaths is a hard film to take your eyes off.

The biggest drawback to SP is that, at times, it feels overly influenced by early Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino. This could very easily be mistaken as part of either director’s filmography (sans the British accents for Ritchie). Honestly though, McDonagh is a skilled enough filmmaker to make this is a good thing. More than just aping the movies we love, it stands alongside them as a sharp-tongued and mercilessly violent dark comedy that is at once absurd and sublime.

1 comment:

  1. Well it definitely is reminiscent of Pulp Fiction and Snatch but I wouldn't necessarily call it a rip-off. This movie does have a similar style but it still has an individual voice. The depiction of the violence was really well done too. It's graphic but there's so much humour around everything, the violence isn't jarring or upsetting. One of my favourite parts of the movie was when Bonny gives Billy a high 5. Such a small little gesture but it got a huge laugh from me. I haven't watched In Bruges, I'll add it to the list. McDonagh really impressed me with this one.