Seven Psychopaths (2012)
Director: Martin McDonagh.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Zeljko Ivanek.
Run Time: 110 minutes.
Seven Psychopaths is the latest film from writer and director Martin McDonagh, the brilliant mind behind In Bruges. No pressure for his follow-up then. The plot, in essence, is about screenwriter Marty (Farrell), who becomes embroiled in the LA underworld when his friend Billy (Rockwell) kidnaps the dog of a demented gangster (Harrelson). Marty is also struggling with alcoholism and writing his next script, giving us a story about a story, which is a great idea if executed well. We’ll come to this later.
I won’t lie, I’m conflicted here. In the Seven Psychopaths tradition, I’ll start with a story. I tried to see this film on Monday, and got some of the way in before a power surge knocked off the power to the cinema. After a fantastic opening scene, I wasn’t really feeling the rest of the section that I watched. I laughed, but didn’t particularly think it was funny. It’s an odd feeling indeed to laugh at something but not actually enjoy what you’re watching. It felt empty and superficial. I wrote it off and went into the second screening (Wednesday night) with open eyes. Again I had the same feeling.
The problem is thus: Seven Psychopaths tries too hard to be funny and clever, and it actually isn’t. It feels bloated and convoluted because of it, and in trying to achieve a twisting and turning unpredictable plot, it becomes tediously boring, as do the constant nods back to the premise of story writing, almost like little winks into the audience so we know how intelligent this all is.
The cast on paper is fantastic, and McDonagh obviously has an impeccable pedigree for offbeat dark comedy, but here it feels like he has overreached. By trying to outdo his last effort, he has created something with none of the warmth, humour and originality of In Bruges. My viewing buddies loved it and found it really entertaining and solidly written. It has some zippy and funny lines, and really hilarious moments, but it never stops feeling forced, in a knowing way. For this reason it has a real lack of charm. That niggling feeling just stopped me completely from enjoying the film. Most of the actors seem to be playing off weak caricatures of their best roles. It all just stinks of trying to be impressive for the sake of it.
It’s postmodern in the worst possible way, and the things that Tarantino and others get so right, were so disastrously wrong here. It shows glimpses of what could have been, and apparently I was laughing the loudest throughout, so read into that what you will. By all means see it, You may take more out of the experience than me. You may see it as a madcap caper full of zany characters that gives a fresh take on the crime genre, but I didn’t. Maybe I’m being harsh, too critical about it. Setting an unreachable standard. It was alright I suppose. But that doesn’t get rid of the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Score: 5 out of 10.
If you liked this, check out: In Bruges, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Reservoir Dogs.