By Aaron Moran (Ireland)
It’s All Very Meta If You Ask Me
Seven Psychopaths starts very simply, two hitmen, Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg to be exact are having a conversation about how the infamous bank-robber John Dillinger died. As this conservation continues we begin to make out a figure approaching the two men. What happens next perfectly establishes the brutally bloody and always funny tone of Seven Psychopaths.
Psychopaths is Martin McDonagh’s second feature as a writer-director. His first stab into the medium was 2008’s instant cult classic In Bruges a film which reignited star Colin Farrell’s career and introduced to the world a completely original and exciting new directorial voice. Bruges had everything, memorable characters, bloody violence, laugh out loud comedy and some of the best writing to be seen since Tarantino first introduced us to Mr Pink.
Bruges is a tough act to follow but McDonagh gives it a damn good shot. Colin Farrell is once again the central character in this piece, he plays Marty, an alcoholic-writer who has the title Seven Psychopaths but not one word on a page. His intention is to write a film with psychopaths but make it about peace and love. This is a problem for his best friend Billy played by Sam Rockwell, Billy’s in the dog kidnapping business and wants to co-write the screenplay with Marty. Billy wants to see a movie about psychopaths killing each other that ends with a shoot-out in his own way.
The story seems quite simple so far but trust me it’s not, Billy steals dogs with his partner in crime Han’s, played by the brilliant Christopher Walken, they have made quite a lucrative business out of their partnership but when Billy steals local gangster Charlie’s (Woody Harrelson) beloved Shih Tzu things go from bad to worse.
It’s after these events that Psychopaths really takes off. McDonagh does not restrict himself to telling your ordinary crime-comedy, no, he has too much imagination for that. He makes every character memorable, they all come with their own niches. He constructs and deconstructs the tropes of a run of the mill crime movie by making sure his own is anything but.
This is very much a 21’s century, post-modernist film with one scene involving Hans telling Marty he writes awful female characters, Marty’s response is that it’s a tough world for women, but this no excuse. We know as watchers that McDonagh inserted this conversation to cover his tracks as his screenplay mirroring Marty’s own also has completely redundant females. But it’s hard to excuse McDonagh when you know he can do better than that.
Psychopaths seems to have it all but is missing the key ingredient which made Bruges such a masterpiece… heart. Psychopaths is more shallow than its predecessor, its comedy is more broad and its violence less affecting, played for laughs rather than drama. Seven Psychopaths is a surreal, violent, entertaining ride, it’s just a shame it’s not a personal one.