Irish screenwriter Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell) has come down with a bad case of writerís block; he has the title for his next script, Seven Psychopaths, but is struggling to write it. Billy (Sam Rockwell) is Martyís best friend, an unemployed actor and part-time dog-napper, who wants to help Marty, by any means necessary. Hans (Christopher Walken) is Billyís partner in crime; they snitch dogs and wait for an offer of a reward to return them. When they dog-nap Bonny the shih tzu, his owner, Charlie (Woody Harrelson), they arenít to know he is a psychopathic gangster; Charlie is enraged. Marty is going to get all the focus and inspiration he needs for his subject matter, as long as he lives to tell the tale.
Review by Louise Keller:
While his first film, In Bruges was black, fresh and funny, Martin McDonagh's follow up comedy crime caper is less on the mark. The compellingly named Seven Psychopaths feels as though it is trying a little too hard.
Notwithstanding that there are some good things about the film, it is essentially a brain-teaser that is ultra black, with a gee-wizz cast and a schlock of set ups that work in varying degrees. The premise of an alcoholic, Irish screenwriter whose scumbag buddies kidnap rich dogs for a buck, is pretty wild, especially when Colin Farrell plays the screenwriter and two pretty convincing wildcards like Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken play the out of control scumbags. Add the element of Woody Harrelson as a disgruntled Mafia-type, whose adorable Shih Tzu has been snatched, and you have a compelling mix of mayhem that sizzles when it works and treads water when it doesn't.
You'll never know who is going to be killed next, but chances are you'll be surprised on pretty much every count. The opening sequence assures us of that. McDonagh's screenplay takes its time settling into its groove, but before long we are involved in a reality - some real and some imagined - where there exists a red-masked Jack of diamond killer, a Vietnamese with a bare-breasted hooker, a Quaker who slits his throat and a psychopathic weirdo (played by Tom Waits) with a rabbit, who responds to a classified newspaper ad looking for psychos with stories.
The violence is cartoonish and frequent, with blood dripping every which way, but the moments of fear feel real, like the scene in which Gabourey Sidibe has a gun held to her head by Harrelson and we are not sure how things are going to pan out. One thing is for sure, as a rule, women have a high likelihood of being shot, whereas animals are exempt.
Watch for Abbie Cornish as Farrell's Australian girlfriend and Olga Kurylenko as Harrelson's girl, who is also having a fling with Rockwell. Much of the fun comes from the crazy interaction between Farrell, Rockwell and Walken, the latter two often being left to their own ever-spiralling craziness.
As for Farrell, he is a good screen presence, and convincing as the booze-addicted writer struggling for ideas beyond his eye-catching screenplay title. We almost feel as though we have consumed (or inhaled) the psychedelic cactus in the bizarre scenes set in the adorable Californian desert, in the lead up to the final shoot out. And let's not forget Bonnie, the Shih Tzu with the cutest face and disposition, over whose tiny body much of the action takes place.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Marty is an Irish writer never too far from a bottle, a caricature of both writers and the Irish, but in this self-parody black comedy by Irish writer Martin McDonagh, nothing is beyond the pale. He who made the lovingly black crime comedy drama, In Bruges (starring Colin Farrell), McDonagh moves out of the confines of an old European city into the open spaces of California's mad lands. The transition suits him.
Seven Psychopaths is a performance driven film, and McDonagh has done his homework. For Marty, he has recalled Colin Farrell, of course, the edgiest Irishman to walk the screen, and surrounded him with the likes of Sam Rockwell as the seriously whacko Billy, Christopher Walken as the bizarro Hans who works the stolen dog reward racket with Billy, and Woody Harrelson as the eternally unchained Charlie, from who you do not steal anything, let alone his fluffy shih tzu, Bonny.
This is not a standard issue black comedy; McDonagh makes it a film about the making of the film, or at least about the writing of the screenplay, its self referential approach being the vehicle for the film's dark humour and bravura structure. This allows him to show us ideas as make believe scenes and to push the atrocities further, edging close to schlock horror in a couple of scenes.
It's clever and convoluted (but in a good way) and the jive doesn't stop with the screenplay. There's Tom Waits as a psychopath with a bloody back story, Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe (of Precious fame) in a scary cameo and Australia's Abbie Cornish as Marty's girlfriend - perhaps the most thankless role, but she does it well.
The film is not just a black comedy, though: McDonagh explores the writer's inner battle to find meaning in mayhem, as it were. He calls it a gigantic cinematic jigsaw; in the screenplay Walken gets a laugh when he refers to it in self important tones as 'layered'. That's the kind of work this is.
It's a film you don't read about; you don't try to analyse; you don't ask what it's about; it's a film you go and you surrender your cinematic ass.
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SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (MA15+)
CAST: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko, Gabourey Sidibe, Kevin Corrigan
PRODUCER: Martin McDonagh, Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin
DIRECTOR: Martin McDonagh
SCRIPT: Martin McDonagh
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Davis
EDITOR: Lisa Gunning
MUSIC: Carter Burwell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Wasco
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 8, 2012
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.