Despite only having directed two feature-length films and one Oscar-winning short, Martin Mcdonagh looks likely to go on to become one of the great directors along with Spielberg or Scorsese, if his outstanding second feature is anything to go by.
Seven Psychopaths follows Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell), a struggling Hollywood screenwriter who becomes involved in a dog kidnapping business by his psychotic friend Billy (Sam Rockwell). However, the latest dog they kidnap belongs to crime lord Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson). Chaos ensues.
Seven Psychopaths works well both as a comedy and a serious drama. Mcdonagh knows when to make you laugh or cry – and there are is shortage of laughs or tears in Seven Psycopaths. Another of Mcdonagh’s talents, as evidence in his previous work, is his skill with dialogue. In many years time, people will still be quoting lines from Seven Psychopaths, such as: (upon hearing Gandhi’s quote “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”: “No, it doesn’t. There’ll be one guy left with one eye. How’s the last blind guy gonna take out the eye of the last guy left?” )
If you’re expecting that because the film is one of many countless crime comedies that it will go down the usual been-there, done-that road, think again. Mcdonagh’s screenplay keeps you guessing until the very last minute, with so many surprises that even the most obsessive crime comedy fan will be surprised. One particularly striking aspect of the narrative is that occasionally we are shown the stories written by Farrell’s screenwriter or created by other characters in the film which then come to life in front of us, giving the film an otherworldly feel.
One of these sequences, describes by Rockwell, depicts a ridiculously over the top shoot out in a cemetery, featuring flamethrowers, crossbows, lovers dying in each other’s arms and exploding heads. This is Mcdonagh’s way of saying that, although he will not use dumb things like this in his stories, he still finds them entertaining enough to show. And yes, Seven Psychopath’s R rating was hard. Blood and gore filled the screen at every available opportunity, and four letter words were non-stop. Not only does Mcdonagh defy Hollywood conventions, he also defies the current PG-13 obsession, making a proudly R rated film.
Despite being about crime and violence, Seven psychopaths does have a strong stance on morality. Farrell and Christopher Walken both play pacifists, who, even when faced with life or death situations, refuse to fight and would rather die than take a life. At one point, Christopher Walken comes up with an ending to a story told by Colin Farrell about a Veitnamese priest wanting revenge after his village is destroyed in the war, with the ending saying that instead of finding revenge, he destroyed all feelings of rage and committed suicide, to show that revenge will lead nowhere. Hopefully viewers, as well as being entertained, will go away with the film’s strong moral message.
And inevitably yes, the performances in the film are Oscar worthy. Here Mcdonagh takes a group of actors who have been praised for their performances in the past, and he gets absolutely everything out of them. This film should be watched next Award Season.
Seven Psychopaths was released towards the end of the year in the UK, and what a brilliant way to end the year. The film has only so far grossed $14,219,380 on a $15 million budget, which is tragic – especially after the witless Taken 2 grossed $361,097,704. Seven Psychopaths is one of the funniest, most original, and, if I can be so bold, best films of the year.