[Review] – Seven Psychopaths

24 Oct

Title: Seven Psychopaths
Year: 2012
Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Gabourey Sidibe, Kevin Corrigan, Zeljko Ivanek, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Harry Dean Stanton
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use
Runtime: 110 min
IMDb Rating: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Metacritic: 66

Martin McDonagh is (inarguably, really) one of the very best living playwrights we have today. The Irishman is the author of the Leenane Trilogy as well as the Aran Islands Trilogy of plays, not to mention The Pillowman and A Behanding in Spokane, and four of his works have received Tony Award nominations for Best Play. Then in 2005 he made Six Shooter, a 27-minute short film starring Brendan Gleeson that won him an Oscar for Best Live Action Short which he would use as a launching pad for In Bruges, his first feature-length effort that would come in 2008 and that would see him reunite with Mr. Gleeson.

Look, I’m a seriously huge fan of In Bruges, it’s most definitely one of the best five films of that year and it showcased every awesome thing Mr. McDonagh has to offer, from his ability to create some really unpredictable and delightful plot developments to his unique brand of some really dark comedy that’s rooted in very human emotions.If you haven’t seen In Bruges I cannot recommend it enough, it got Mr. McDonagh an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay which it should have won (it went to Milk) and it has amazing performances from everyone involved, including career-best work from Colin Farrell in the lead role that got him a Golden Globe.

Now, four years later, he’s back with his sophomore effort, Seven Psychopaths, which premiered at TIFF this year. To say I’ve been eagerly awaiting this film would be a sore understatement, it’s been one of my most hotly anticipated releases since the second it was announced. I mean, not only was it Martin McDonagh back at it again, but the cast was just ridiculously awesome, with Mr. Farrell once again taking on the leading role and the rest of the characters being fleshed out by people as amazing as Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken (these two starred in A Behanding in Spokane on Broadway, so they were familiar with Mr. McDonagh’s style of dialogue) plus Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko.

Then there was also that plot, which sounded perfect for this creative team. You see, Mr. Farrell plays Marty, a struggling screenwriter who’s having some trouble finishing his screenplay (which is also called Seven Psychopaths). Mr. Rockwell plays Billy, his best friend who really wants to help him out and who’s an unemployed actor who makes a bit of cash as a part-time dog thief and who’s aided in that criminal business by Hans, Mr. Walken’s character, a religious man with a violent past. Then there’s Mr. Harrelson as Charlie, the psychopath gangster who loves his shih tzu more than anything and who’s just had his beloved doggie stolen by Billy and Hans.

I mean, come on, right? That plot is so ridiculous that in the hands of any other writer-director the chances of it succeeding would be slim to none, but in the hands of Mr. McDonagh it sounded as sublime as it gets. And it was. I probably didn’t love Seven Psychopaths as much as I did In Bruges but it’s actually pretty damn close. The screenplay is just amazing, it has this amazing stuff about the writing process and about movies themselves and it has the best one-liners and all of it is mixed in with a nice dose of violence and the most amazing satirization of the typical crime movie clichés. To make that work you need the best people in charge of saying those words and this cast is more than up to task, every single member of it is just so, so perfectly cast.

What I thought was tremendous and rather different than In Bruges was how it was all sort of messy in that I thought it felt like a wild beast going kind of out control at times. That’s obviously not exactly the cast as I’m more than sure that Mr. McDonagh was going for just that because it worked perfectly for the purpose of his narrative, but yeah, it all felt (to name-drop myself here) rather artfully bedraggled. This is just a wonderful film.

I just adored the balance it achieved between the more literary stuff and the social commentary on what movies really mean and how it’s so self-aware that it itself is a movie and the more violent stuff; it’s like Charlie Kaufman by way of Quentin Tarantino. It really goes without saying that Seven Psychopaths is unlike anything you’ll see this year at the multiplex, and probably unlike anything you’ll get to see until Mr. McDonagh decides to make another film. If you like movies then you’d have to crazy not to drool over the idea of Mr. Farrell, Mr. Walken, Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Harrelson going at it in a film like this.

Because the performances really are something to behold. Mr. Farrell makes a really smart call and kind of hangs back, smartly allowing his co-stars to really get the flashy moments around him and not once trying to outshine them. Because, really, he couldn’t. Mr. Harrelson as this gangster is brilliant because he’s hilarious and the next second he can turn it around be evil. Then you have Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Walken stealing the show here, you immediately get that these actors love working with each other, that they have already done so under the same writer before, and here Mr. Rockwell is just terrifically over-the-top and Mr. Walken gives a stunning mysterious and restrained performance that, to me, ranks amongst the best he’s given in his legendary career.

Seven Psychopaths is a stellar film. One of my favorites of the year, with a terribly smart screenplay with these deliciously over-the-top plot lines and the best dialogue available that gets acted out by an amazing ensemble. It’s just a film that moves with an amazing energy from a director that is so clearly in love with making movies, even though he’s also terribly talented at writing plays. Whatever he does next I’ll be first in line and I’m sure I’ll love it like crazy (and I hope it includes Tom Waits in a bigger role).

Grade: A

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One Response to “[Review] – Seven Psychopaths”

  1. CMrok93 October 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    It’s a hell of a lot of fun with near-perfect writing, great performances from the ensemble, and a keen look at movies and what they do with their structures. In my humble opinion, I definitely thought that In Bruges was a tad better, but they’re both still great at what they do. Good review.

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