Seven Psychopaths (dir. Martin McDonagh, 2012) – Billy lands his dognapping partner and screenwriter friend into trouble when he kidnaps the beloved Shih Tzu of a violent mobster.
This is a movie about a movie about seven psychopaths and I love it. It’s got layers.
In the Oscar-winning short Six Shooter, writer-director Martin McDonagh showed his knack for crafting wisecracking maniacs with a penchant for uneasy violence. Now, the brilliant filmmaker has returned with seven more in his latest black comedy, Seven Psychopaths.
His directorial debut In Bruges may be a tough act to follow. But choosing not to play it safe, his sophomore feature presents a movie framed within a movie that doubles as a superb meta-critique on the absurdity of genre staples. The convoluted plot may see this as a less solid effort, yet the risky move still assures of gripping originality.
Unconventional storytelling unfolds with clever wit and unflinching brutality, echoing the style of auteurs like The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino. Yet a certain playfulness is extant in pained characters that are distinctively McDonagh’s. Balancing dismal darkness and comedy, the compelling crime story be best described as a light Barton Fink.
The main draw is the excellent ensemble cast. Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, and Woody Harrelson are just four of seven, playing compelling eccentrics with impeccable comic timing. Rockwell’s performance continues to beckon the question, when is he going to get the Oscar he is owed?
While Linda Bright Clay did not get a mention in the promos, her captivating performance sure as hell deserves one. Then, there’s Bonny. I mean… Just look at her:
“It was hot with these flashbulbs going off (at the Toronto International Film Festival). There was this huge guy standing next to me yelling, ‘Let me pick her up.’ And I’m protecting the dog, thinking, ‘If you touch that dog, I will crack you right in the face.'”
– Christopher Walken
Admittedly not for everyone, McDonagh’s provocative brand of humour would be misunderstood by many. Beyond digging at the film industry, it pokes fun at social stereotypes and uses slurs at will. The politically incorrect satire is reserved for a select liberal group. Besides, Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell did not engage in a dance battle – a wasted opportunity, if you ask me.
But even if the over-the-top violence can be hard to swallow, Seven Psychopaths remains a madly hilarious and highly quotable treat. If you love every second of In Bruges*, you will be a fan.
* If you don’t like In Bruges, you have never seen In Bruges. And if you haven’t seen In Bruges,
we can’t be friends do that.