Seven Psychopaths looked interesting, to say the least. Story wise, it was different – definitely original, I’d say. Kudos for that. A mixed bag of unusual and provocative themes, ideas, scenes and characters are thrown at you from the get go in a rather disjointed and confusingly edited narrative. The editing style, along with the structure of the story, seemed to be setting the tone for the main character’s own state of mind – befuddled. It comes across as a bit gimmicky at times and way more confusing than it had to be, but not so much so that it detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. The characters were interesting and that drew me in enough to want to figure out the convoluted plot. And the plot became just comprehensible enough, soon enough, to build my anticipation for the payoff at the end. In a relatively small budget film like this I think the director has more license to take risks. And that he did. Enough of them paid off to make for an entertaining experience. All things considered, I liked it.
Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter who’s having trouble with his latest script, Seven Psychopaths. He’s experiencing writer’s block. He’s tired of the nonstop action in most crime movies and he wants to write a crime story with unconventional characters in an unconventional way. He wants to write something akin to the Zen of crime capers, but he’s struggling with it. Marty’s best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), along with Billy’s best friend, Hans (Christopher Walken), are running a business; their profession isn’t what you would call normal. They kidnap dogs for a living. They wait for a reward to be posted and in feigned good Samaritan fashion they return the beloved pets to their wealthy owners. Like the pros they are, they skillfully profess just enough disinterest in the reward to come across as genuine do-gooders, but not enough to dissuade the pet owner from paying up. One day, they dog-nap the wrong pooch. Billy and Hans make off with a Shih Tzu named Bonny. Bonny’s owner is a ruthless gangster, psychopath number one, Charlie (Woody Harrelson). At this point, other “psychopaths” enter the story, but we don’t really know if they’re imagined or real – if they’re psychopaths in Marty’s head as he’s developing his Seven Psychopaths screenplay, or psychopaths in the real world of Marty’s and his friends’ own spiraling-out-of-control crime caper. It’s like a movie in a movie. As I was trying to make sense of all of this, so were Marty, Billy and Hans.
The writer and director is Martin McDonagh. His film, In Bruges (2008), was an Indie favorite and also starred Colin Farrell. My biggest criticism of his work in this movie was the violence. I’m not opposed to violence in movies, but the violence in Seven Psychopaths is often out of context – too strong and shocking for the type of film it is. Seven Psychopaths is a dark comedy, but much of the violence seems more appropriate for a Tarantino film. It felt out of place and conflicted with the general tone of the film. On the plus side, the story was crafted well. It kept you guessing. This was the movie’s biggest strength – its unpredictability.
The screenplay accomplished a lot. There’s a smorgasbord of interesting characters developed throughout the story. With so many characters in a movie, it’s easy for some to get lost in the shuffle, or for some to be underdeveloped and seem gratuitous. That doesn’t happen in Seven Psychopaths. Every character has the kind of well-written dialog that makes them memorable and each serves in a relevant way to advance the story. Rockwell’s character, Billy, could have benefited from more lines. I wanted to know more about him. Not all of the script’s “deep” moments worked for me. In this department, it was hit or miss. When it came to humor and wit, on the other hand, McDonagh delivered consistently; he knows how to write funny, witty dialog.
A great cast was put together for this movie. They all delivered exceptional performances. Colin Farrell gives his best performance in a while and adds an extra dimension to his character beyond what’s written in the many nuances of his expressions and body language. Sam Rockwell is, and will always be very underrated. Moon, Conviction, Matchstick Men, The Assassination of Jesse James, Galaxy Quest, are some of his better roles. He’s so good. Rockwell always finds ways to make new characters, this is no different here. He plays the part well through and through. Christopher Walken does his usually thing, that isn’t a bad thing, though. Woody Harrelson probably had a lot of fun with his role; it was a full on fun performance. Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko, Abbie Cornish, and the rest of the supporting actors were all solid.
The soundtrack, editing, and cinematography were good. Still, they had some noticeable hiccups along the way. All the songs on the soundtrack were great, but most of them seemed awkwardly placed into the scenes. Loved listening to them at times. However, they added nothing most of the time; never took me completely out, though. Editing is obvious to catch. Little missteps here and there. Now, technically their wasn’t anything wrong with the cinematography. It’s just with some of the locals of the movie, you never actually notice the visual side. Noticing cinematography while your in the mist of watching the movie is rare, it really has to stand-out. So, in this case, this is mainly an observation, not criticism.
Final Words = An interesting experience that has noticeable flaws, but is entertaining while still working on a level above that.