Review: Seven Psychopaths

Martin McDonagh gets meta-textual in his mad film about mad gangsters. reviews

Director/Screenwriter: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Collin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken
Length: 110 mins
Rating: 4 Stars

How does a director make the move to Hollywood to write a film about LA gangsters, whilst retaining the originality of their last work? In Martin McDonagh’s case, taking centre stage in his own black comedy Seven Psychopaths helps.

Collin Farrell – apparently distracted from his usual habit of appearing in flops – reunites with McDonagh after their last (non-flop) In Bruges to play Martin, the director’s onscreen doppelganger. The character provides relief as the rare voice of sanity as he continues to search for potential psychopaths that he can write about in his Hollywood screenplay. Finding these individuals proves light work as he is joined by the blaspheming Billy Bickle (Rockwell) and his partner-in-dog-related-crime Hans (Walken). When a routine dognap goes wrong, Martin is caught in the vengeful warpath of Charlie (Harrelson), an equally nutty gangster and loving owner of Bonny the Shih-Tzu.

This Tarantino-influenced mobster farce stays fresh by focusing, not on shoot-outs or a dog, but the alternative possibilities of storytelling. It could be called a “meta-film”; an amalgam of internally fictional sequences in which some members of the titular troupe only belong to imaginary scenes.

While such complexity would cause lesser films to descend into confusion, Seven Psychopaths avoids this in the satirising of its own genre; “you don’t kill animals in a movie, only women”, Billy poignantly advises Martin. A side effect of self-aware quips like this, is McDonagh’s worrying nonchalance in mentioning the problem, rather than solving it himself by writing stronger female characters.

But audiences will easily be won over by the film’s enjoyable unpredictability. This is helped by energetic performances from Rockwell and Harrelson who deftly provide tension and humour, whilst Walken stands out as he brings all-important warmth in spite of his deadpan demeanour.

Seven Psychopaths is fittingly mental, funny, and far more than a warm-up for Tarantino’s release of Django Unchained next month. With plot twists from start to finish – and then some – don’t stand up too quickly, because it doesn’t stop being crazy at the credits.

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