“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
Aren’t we all a little crazy? Of course. Are some of us crazier than others? Depends on who is the judge. Seven Psychopaths is the story of Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell) a screenwriter suffering from a major bout of writer’s block. He is doing everything possible to lift the block because his work, titled Seven Psychopaths, could be a huge hit. In the process however, he has become sort of an alcoholic.
Marty’s best friend is an unemployed actor by the name of Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell). Billy is doing his best to motivate his friend through this rut, all while running his side business with his co-partner, Hans Kieslowski (Christopher Walken). Hans and Billy kidnap dogs from rich owners, and then return them for monetary value. It is a pretty smooth endeavor until a Shih Tzu is taken one day. This action inevitably brings Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), an extremely volatile and merciless gangster, into the picture. Before you know it, Marty is shoehorned into this bizarre situation. Crazy as it may sound and be, it may be just what he needs to break out of this funk.
Despite having a title befitting of a horror or thriller, Seven Psychopaths is largely a comedy-crime film. Comedy of the dark variety sure, but a comedy nonetheless. It is one of the more unpredictable and eccentric films in recent memory, in the best of possible ways. Just about all of the humor is taken from extremely morbid situations and themes, and yet, you never really feel guilty laughing at it. This may be due to the fact that it is so absurd (a dog causing insanely peculiar crazy people to go to these wild lengths!) that laughter is the only coping mechanism here.
But this isn’t a one-trick pony. There are more than a few tension-filled scenes that get fairly heavy and end in gory fashion from time to time. Yes, blood and gore is found pretty frequently in this one. Perhaps not on the level of today’s standard horror slasher movie, still some people are going to be shocked during some moments. Mainly because while most of what occurs in the movie is played in a comedic way, the violence appears to be pretty straightforward with no noticeable comedic lean. Overall, the movie is able to effectively balance the complete darkness with the obvious comedy, aside from a few instances where it feels like it shifts rather quickly in tone.
The story found in Seven Psychopaths is pretty clear, but in all actuality it is nothing more than a backdrop for the true focus of the film. In fact, I wouldn’t so much call it a story, but rather a series of events improbably intertwined with a meta “tint”. Which makes sense, as a main plot strand of the movie is about a writer completing a movie, and how what he wants isn’t necessarily what Hollywood wants. Sound familiar? When it is all said and done, the true focus of the film ends up being the unforgettable characters.
While I know that psychopathy comes in many variances, I generally think of psychopaths being of a general type most commonly portrayed in the media—just general crazy and non-remorseful people. This movie definitely has that type present, but also reaffirms that psychopathy and sociopathy can appear in many forms. For this type of movie to succeed though, the performances need to be strong, and each person of note is brilliant in their respective performance.
Colin Farrell is a classic boom or bust actor with the roles he chooses. This one serves as one of his finer roles. Playing the more conventional man among a bevvy of nutjubs, Farrell is impressively able to portray the self-doubt, general fear, and bewilderment his character has in this predicament. It is a very solid role in his own right, but Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell steal the show here. Their characters couldn’t be anymore different, but both are essentially the same. Rockwell and Walken provide much of the comedy throughout, albeit in very distinct ways, especially Rockwell in an unforgettable role. This is all I really want to say out of fear of spoiling anything monumental.
Rounding out the big four is Woody Harrelson, who plays his ruthless character with an obvious edge but vulnerability as well. The only knock on him is that he is absent for much of the runtime, which isn’t his fault. All four do amazing jobs, because they are able to make us care about them. No matter how screwed up they may be, each one is striving towards something, be it redemption, finality, fantasy, etc. I would have liked to see more of the leading ladies in this (Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko), but from a meta perspective touched upon in the movie, their limited screentime makes sense.
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh of In Bruges fame (also a dark comedy), Seven Psychopaths not only features an abnormal script, but technically proficient cinematography as well. There are the gruesome scenes that are filmed with practical effects which look great, but the real standout(s) occur during simple scenes with nothing but dialogue. McDonagh really knows how to frame these moments, adding layers of uncertainty as well as anticipation. In addition he utilizes a warm and occasionally hazy filter found more so near the end of the movie which again lends to the overall wacky feeling of the movie’s premise.
It may not be for everyone, but if star studded casts and offbeat stories mixed with black humor interest you in the slightest, Seven Psychopaths is a must-watch on intrigue alone.
Photo credits go to aceshowbiz.com & beyondhollywood.com.
P.S. I’d also like to thank Time Warner cable for giving me a full free weekend of Showtime! Wasn’t able to watch as many films as I would have liked, but I was able to see this gem.
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