Sometimes filmmakers seem to have the most fun when they turn the camera on their craft and themselves. Among titles that come to mind are Singin' in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths falls in line with that theory. The talented writer-director of the quirky In Bruges from a few years back seems to be using Seven Psychopaths as a cathartic experience to work through a bout of writer’s block.
Colin Farrell, who seems to get better with each film lately, plays a filmmaker named Martin, who’s Irish, drinks too much, has relationship problems, and can’t seem to jump start the script on his latest project called, introspectively enough, Seven Psychopaths.
His zany, but quite loony, friend is Billy Bickle… note the use of the same surname as the Robert DeNiro character from Taxi Driver… and is brilliantly acted by Sam Rockwell. However, is Billy a real person, or some version of Martin’s conscience?
Billy has a friend named Hans and their racket is to kidnap dogs only to return them to the rightful owners once a sufficient reward is offered. As you might expect in film named Seven Psychopaths, Christopher Walken embodies Hans, in a more subdued performance than usual. He’s actually the heart and soul of the film and has several scenes that are not only quite touching, but among the best work he’s ever done.
Local lad Woody Harrelson shows up as a soulless, heartless gangster who takes no pity and gives no quarter… except when it comes to his beloved pooch, a Shih Tzu named Bonny. When Billy nabs Bonny, that’s when the Shih Tzu really hits the fan and sends Harrelson on a roaring rampage of revenge to reclaim his reason for being.
Also along for the ride in this sensational cast are Tom Waits as a slightly unhinged character who carries around a white rabbit, and an important cameo with no dialogue by the great Harry Dean Stanton.
Another big plus is the presence of composer Carter Burwell’s latest score, a mash-up of original music, pop tunes, and slice of a gorgeous choral music by Carl Orff. Burwell is most noted for doing the music for most, if not all, the films of the Coen Brothers.
Seven Psychopaths is quite funny in its execution… you should pardon the expression… but it’s of the sly, wry variety of humor, not laugh-out-loud slapstick. It’s a film than requires thought and attention to put all the pieces together, and is more than worth the effort. However, it’s not without its faults. Depending on your sensibilities, Seven Psychopaths is incredibly violent, bloody and profane, and the third act runs on a little longer than it should, which encourages thoughts of “oh, get on with it.” And give me a break, but don’t tell me that in a film with this title, subject matter, and cast, there was no room for John Malkovich?
But quibbles aside, this bit of cinematic narcissism is a quite enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours in the dark. Oh… and once again, don’t jump up and run for the exit when the first credit rolls. After the first three or so, there’s more movie that you won’t want to miss.
Unfortunately, the R-rated Seven Psychopaths was not a sensation at the box office, so you should seek it out this week before it’s gone. It’s currently showing on a full schedule at the Esquire
Theatre, and Springdale Cinema de Lux. Several other locations have it for a showing or two each day, so check the listings for your nearest theatre.