Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s (In Bruges) second film, ‘Seven Psychopaths’ pays homage (or more accurately pokes fun) at Quentin Tarantino films. Check out the opening scene. Two killers (Michael Stuhlberg and Michael Pitt) are having a conversation about how they will whack someone. It will remind you of Jules and Vincent in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ As the two mobsters discuss whether or not their victim should be shot in the eyeball, BAM, the film hits you like a freight train. I’m not going to spoil the opening but it is crazy, funny, and violent. Welcome to the world of Mr. McDonagh. McDonagh is a gifted Irish playwright turned filmmaker. Do you know why he became a playwright? Interesting factoid… his screenplays were rejected so he turned to theatre to get his voice heard.
The story is quite good with many layers to it. Marty (Colin Farrell) is an alcoholic screenwriter with a serious case of writer’s block. I’ve noticed every screenwriter depicted in a movie has writer’s block. In reality, any screenwriter lucky enough to break through Hollywood and get one of their scripts optioned usually has a box full of other stories collecting dust in a closet. In other words, most screenwriters with an inkling of talent are ready to step up to the plate and write when they get the call. But hey, this is a movie and it creates an interesting conflict when a writer is staring at a blank page.
Marty is in the process of developing his latest script titled; you guessed it, ‘Seven Psychopaths.’ So far he just has the title of the movie and so his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) offers to help him. Billy is a struggling actor so he supplements his income kidnapping dogs and then having his partner Hans (Christopher Walken) return the dog to its rightful owner and claim the reward. The two entrepreneurs randomly kidnap a Shih Tzu named Bonny. The only problem is that Bonny is the beloved pet of mob boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson). Charlie will go to any lengths to get his cute little pooch back to him safely. The boys should have realized this when they read Bonny’s dog tag: “Return to Charles Castello or you will f—ing die.”
This movie has its flaws but it is a parody. I understand what McDonagh was striving for in the film. I found the movie fell a bit flat in the third act when they hide out in the desert. Some of the dream sequences fizzled a bit for me too. Particularly the one Marty concocts about a psychopath who is an angry Vietnamese priest in a hotel room with a blonde hooker. Huh? It is hard to explain. Marty is a writer so there are many dream sequences of him developing the seven psychopath characters. That one just didn’t work for me. However, I did like McDonagh’s observations regarding women characters in shoot-em-up movies. Hans gives Marty some criticism about his script saying his female characters are dull and can barely construct sentences. What makes this joke even more comical is that most female characters in ‘Seven Psychopaths’ are just that – vapid.
With that said, there is a great deal to admire about McDonagh’s film. Remember, this is only his second feature film so he is really just hitting his stride. He assembles a killer cast. The three stand-out performances go to Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson. Rockwell has the funniest lines in the entire movie and keeps the humor revved up. Marty discusses his desire to have no violence but only dialogue in the second half of his script. “Talking!?” Rockwell’s character annoyingly says; “What is this, a f—ing French movie?” The arguments that Marty and Billy have are priceless. McDonagh makes fun of the very notion of being literary in Hollywood.
‘Seven Psychopaths’ is now playing at Edwards Boise 22 Stadium and Majestic Cinemas – Meridian.