Martin McDonagh arrives with his long-awaited follow up to In Bruges, with Seven Psychopaths another dark comedy that’s as much a head trip as it is gripping.
If there’s a film that’s as twisted and convoluted in recent years, it could only be from Charlie Kaufman. McDonagh’s sophomore film (he’s primarily known as a playwright) is so circular and so full of wit it’s hard to figure out what to make of it.
Once again, he casts Colin Farrell as the film’s protagonist, here playing Marty, a screenwriter with writer’s block, a conduit for McDonagh himself, no doubt. The script he’s trying to finish, or start rather, is also titled Seven Psychopaths. However, Marty has no real plot or story. Instead, he’s just trying to come up with seven psychopaths.
Once that piece is thrown in, it’s clear that what happens in the film and the script that Marty is writing will become entangled. But as he’s struggling, his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) wants to help him out, and also has a side gig of his own — stealing dogs and returning them to their owners for a cash reward. His partner in crime is Hans (Christopher Walken), an aging conman who’s wife is in the hospital battling cancer. Unfortunately, Billy seems to have finally kidnapped the wrong dog when his owner turns out to be the psychopath Charlie (Woody Harrelson), acting as if his child has been taken.
While that’s the crux of the film, it’s also much more than that. The “seven psychopaths,” as it were, come in the form of characters Marty actually interacts with, like Charlie, but also characters he’s developing for his script, like the Vietnamese vet out to seek revenge on the death of his family during the Vietnam War. What ultimately happens is that Marty’s script and the circumstances around him become confused and start informing what he’s writing about as much as what he’s writing about begins to inform his life.
Billy really does want to help his friend out, who he calls “the best writer of our time,” and at one point puts an ad in a paper, calling out all psychopaths, at Marty’s understandable shock. But through the ad Marty meets Zachariah (Tom Waits) who tells the story of how he rescued a young black women from being killed by a twisted pastor and how the two ended up on a Bonnie and Clyde like murderous adventure. While Marty, and the audience, are at once shocked and rightly taken aback by Zachariah’s frankness with his truly dark past, what it ultimately becomes is a lost love story. Unable to keep up with the rampage, or unwilling to continue with the killing, Zachariah leaves her. But it’s not the killing that haunts him, rather it’s that he left his love behind and wants to find her again. It’s twisted yet sincere moments like these that lift the film out of being another crime-thriller/black-comedy and into something more.
In the end it’s the type of film that’s hard to described and better left experienced on the big screen. As Marty deals with the issues of being dumped by his girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish), writer’s block and becoming wrapped up in Billy’s dog dilemma, his script becomes more than just a title as he ultimately lives what he’s writing about.
What he finds is that a psychopath comes in many different forms whether it’s the short-tempered and violent Charlie, the kind of psychopath most associate with the word, or the non-violent, religious yet career criminal Hans, who’s values seem to be completely against how he chooses to live his life. Behind all the wit, violence and cartoonish situations of McDonagh’s script is a film about people deal with the lives they were dealt and how, really, everyone has the capacity to be a bit of a psychopath.
Rating: 4 out of 5