Directed by Martin McDonagh
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Movies such as Seven Psychopaths are a bit of a pain to review. That says nothing about the film, mind you, which is utterly fantastic. But Psychopaths, with its twisty premise and surprise-laden plot, denies one the ability to talk about the film’s story at length, lest it be spoiled for those who haven’t yet seen it. Briefly put – I can scarcely discuss the flick’s brilliance without ruining the moments that make it brilliant. So I hope you’ll forgive me when I give but a simple synopsis and only vaguely discuss the movie’s merits. Let’s give it a try…
The second feature film from respected playwright Martin McDonagh (his first being the fantastic dark comedy In Bruges), Seven Psychopaths concerns Marty (Farrell), a perpetually drunk screenwriter struggling to complete his newest opus, titled (wait for it) Seven Psychopaths. He has the title and a character bio for one of the titular psychos… and that’s it. Marty’s friend Billy (Rockwell) believes that his best pal should just put down the bottle and seek inspiration, perhaps by allowing Billy to assist with the writing. Then there’s Hans (Walken), a lovable old coot who’s Billy’s partner in crime – said crime being dog kidnapping (…dog-napping?). The two nab pooches from wealthy marks, then return them to their owners later on for the reward money. But when the two steal a beloved Shih Tzu from unbalanced gangster/pet-lover Charlie (Harrelson), the pair find themselves pulled into a storm of violence and bloodshed, with the hapless Marty being dragged along for the ride and, perhaps, finding just the inspiration he needs to complete his latest script.
And, apologies, but that’s probably all I should say about the film’s story. Just trust me when I say that, as enjoyable as that synopsis may (or may not) make it sound, it’s the film’s many twists and turns that elevate it beyond the conventions that pin down most movies of its ilk. Though overly-talky gangster flicks and meta-movies about filmmaking have both been done to death, McDonagh finds a wonderful way to fuse the two tropes, creating a fantastic satire of post-Tarantino crime films that still manages to be every bit as engrossing and exciting as the best of those films. That McDonagh manages to create a movie so wickedly smart, funny, badass, and genuinely touching is a testament to the man’s gifts as a storyteller. I’m unfamiliar with his work outside of this and Bruges, but I’m genuinely keen on checking out McDonagh’s other written works to see if they’re every bit as wonderful as his filmmaking.
A quick note – Martin’s brother, John Michael McDonagh, recently made a film himself entitled The Guard, featuring Don Cheadle and Bruges star Brendan Gleeson. It, too, is full of smart characters and pitch black humor and is well worth checking out.
Heading up an impressive cast for Psychopaths is Colin Farrell, fresh off the dull and dimwitted Total Recall remake, and he puts in fantastic work here. Walking a razor-thin line between comedy and terror throughout, Farrell allows us to buy Marty as a real person, without forgoing the dark humor that pervades his character (and the whole of the film surrounding him). It’s a great performance – one that reminds us how talented the star is when he chooses good material to work with. Also fantastic are Sam Rockwell, who has more notes to play in the film than one might be led to believe early on, and Christopher Walken, who manages to massage his typical oddball schtick to fit a character that winds up being genuinely sweet. Harrelson is solid, too, though he’s given little to do but bluster and bemoan the loss of his canine. Though the film only chiefly concerns those four men, the various supporting roles are filled with top-notch actors doing strong work throughout, allowing no weak links in this marvelously crafted film.
As is typical of studio releases these days, Seven Psychopaths screams onto disc with perfect image and sound. While it’s not likely that you’ll use it as a reference disc, I’d be hard pressed to discuss any flaws with its presentation. The bonus features, on the other hand, are deeply disappointing. With a movie boasting such intelligent writing, direction and performances, one would imagine a treasure trove of extras discussing the film’s inception and making would be a given. Perhaps an audio commentary, a lengthy documentary, anything (!) befitting the movie’s quality. Instead, what we’re given is a handful of featurettes – each about as deep as a teaspoon. Not a one of these bits of EPK fluff makes for an interesting watch, nor does the additional Seven Psychocats, a remake of the film’s theatrical trailer featuring cats in place of the film’s actors. No, I’m not kidding. Boo, hiss.
Still, lack of decent special features aside, Seven Psychopaths is one of the smartest, most original movies that last year had to offer. If it passed you by (and going by the film’s box office numbers, it likely did), be sure to give the movie a rental at the very least. Having said that, if you’re a fan of McDonagh’s previous effort, or of witty black comedies in general, I’d say you’re safe to go ahead and give the film a blind buy. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
– “Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths”
– “Crazy Locations”
– “Woody Harrelson is Charlie”
– “Colin Farrell is Marty”
– “Seven Psychocats”
4 1/2 out of 5
1 out of 5