Wednesday night (November 28th) saw the Dublin premiere of Colin Farrell’s latest movie Seven Psychopaths and while the Irish actor didn’t make it to his hometown’s premiere, Sam Rockwell brought a touch of Hollywood to Dublin’s Savoy cinema. As the theatre filled with Irish celebs, including mega-star, Brendan Gleeson, I sat down to preview this film, which proved to be both a hard-hitting crime drama and a satirical comedy that poked fun at its own genre…
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh and starring Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Tom Waits, Seven Psychopaths immediately sounds like a stellar movie with a superlative cast of Hollywood heavyweights. Then you learn that the movie is complex tale about a borderline (read as Irish) alcoholic screenwriter, Marty (Farrell, obviously) who is suffering from writer’s block, as he tries to pen his next screenplay. Enter stage left: some dog kidnappers, Hans and Billy (Walken and Rockwell, respectively). Then throw Woody Harrelson into the mix, as a pseudo-Mafia don-type nutcase, named Charlie. Oh and don’t forget his dog named Bonnie who gets kidnapped by Hans and Billy. Then get Farrell mixed up in the action. Keeping up? It all sounds very messy and very inaccessible. And this is something which, on paper, shouldn’t work, but in truth, it all comes together very smoothly and effectively. And it’s all very metatheatrical, darling. Like a camp Tarantino flick. Let me explain the sheer brilliance.
The reason this movie works so well is because of its postmodern take on the classic crime genre. While it pays homage to the necessary gruesome gore of traditional crime flicks, what gives Seven Psychopaths its edge is its almost-blitzing satirical take on its own genre. The violence and psychopathy is closely accompanied by comedy and hilarity, not only offering momentary relief, but lampooning old clichés – most notably the crime genre itself.
Set in Los Angeles, the movie centres on Farrell’s character, Marty, a screenwriter, who is struggling to write his next screenplay, managing only to come up with the movie’s title – Seven Psychopaths. He dreams of finishing the script, but lacks both the drive and focus to complete his work. While Farrell may be the movie’s main character, he is rather bland and underdeveloped and acts more as a plot function to portray the story of the film’s other characters. But this is no accident, as the movie becomes inescapably Meta and self-referential. It’s not Marty’s story, he is the screenwriter and rather appropriately, he tries to takes a backseat as the movie’s action unfolds.
Marty’s best friend, Billy (Rockwell), alongside Hans (Walken) runs a mildly successful dog kidnapping business, whereby they steal people’s dogs, only to return them days later for a cash reward. It’s all very innocent, until they steal the beloved Shi Tzu, Bonnie, of crime-boss, Charlie (Harrelson). As Farrell searches for inspiration for his latest screenplay, he not only meets with a real-life psychopath, Zachariah (Waits), but becomes involved in Billy and Hans’ gruesome scheme and his search for seven psychopaths to fill his movie roles appears to be a lot closer to home than he would like to believe.
When Billy, Hans and Marty read the inscription on Bonnie’s collar ““Return to Charles Castello or you will fucking die”, it becomes clear that this time, they have stolen the wrong dog and they do what anyone would do in a similar situation – escape to the desert, with the dog, to help Marty finish his movie and ultimately anticipate a Wild Western-style final shootout.
McDonagh has written and directed an incredibly clever film, which gets funnier and funnier as it gets more bloody and tragic. Heads explode, cars blow up, people are set on fire and Rockwell delivers a hilarious leprechaun-style Irish voice, mimicking Marty’s Irish brogue, as he eats marshmallows by the campfire, while firing out ideas for his friend’s screenplay. It sounds inexplicably random and sometimes it is, but it flows so seamlessly and effortlessly, which is largely down to McDonagh’s impeccable script and direction, but also down to the hilarious deliveries of Rockwell and Walken.
If Rockwell is the movie’s shining comedic star, then Walken is its too cool for school, loveable tough guy. Of course, McDonagh writes him as a devout Christian and this apparent dichotomy or duality within his character simply becomes a mirror of the plot’s split genre – a tie between crime and comedic satire.
When it becomes an existentialist moral film about heaven and hell, it’s reigned back in, as Seven Pscyhopaths offers us dark humour, bloody hilarity and superb timing and as Marty says in the film, “do you know what that is? It’s just fucking great. Fucking great.”
Seven Psychopaths hits Irish cinemas on December 5th – GO AND SEE IT!