Sporadically ridiculous and comically dark, “Seven Psychopaths” is a work of satirical ingenuity with surprising depth that aims for the jugular of the Hollywood movie machine. However, audiences may find that the bouts of absurdity in the film distract from its desire to give reflective commentary.
Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter struggling with writer’s block and a heavy dependency on alcohol. His friends, Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken), kidnap dogs for a living, returning them only to receive a reward. Marty’s inspiration for his screenplay is lacking, but when Billy steals the dog of mobster Charlie (Woody Harrelson), the three friends go on the run, waiting to face the consequences of their actions while attempting to maintain their personal beliefs and behaviors. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, “Seven Psychopaths” offers a critique on cinematic storytelling with a simple plot and an innovative structure.
The cast gives an excellent performance. Colin Farrell is given the opportunity to use his original, Irish accent which lends itself well to Marty’s character. Christopher Walken plays amiable Hans whose mystery and eccentricity are slowly revealed. Woody Harrelson has absolutely no difficulty in portraying Charlie, a violent mobster with a soft side for his shih tzu. However, Sam Rockwell has no trouble stealing the spotlight with his character, Billy Bickle, Marty’s well-intentioned, child-like best friend who has a few secrets of his own.
The tone of “Seven Psychopaths” bounces back and forth from a light-hearted comedy to a vicious gangster film with moments of hilarity and clever lines sprinkled in between transitions. Martin McDonagh touches on a variety of stereotypical situations and elements that occur in modern-day movies — gratuitous violence, misogynistic tendencies, racism and color blindness and the inevitable showdown between protagonist and antagonist. He even goes so far as to state them explicitly throughout the film, but sometimes the absurdity of the situations overshadow their seriousness.
“Seven Psychopaths” questions the valiance in violence so often portrayed in films, and points a mocking finger at the base immaturity of society’s thirst for the blood and sick sense of humor. The constantly wanton, graphic nature of the film and ease in which it is committed produce some disturbance, but perhaps due to the nature of society’s desensitization, produces an almost comic effect.
Before seeing the film, audiences may be easily fooled into the idea that “Seven Psychopaths” is a riotous comedy, and due to its immense exaggeration could consider the film more of a parody than a critique. The peculiarity of the film, its quirky humor and dark grit create an odd balance on screen that results in it falling short of true brilliance.
Speakeasy Rating: B+
Starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson
Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use