Hollywood loves psychopaths. From deformed megalomaniacs willing to do anything to take over the world, to cops with mullets and drinking problems, all have been embraced. Films today have to show us more psychopathic behaviour than ever to even slightly surprise us. Murder the dog! Saw up the kids! Defile the elderly! We’ve seen some truly crazy shit and witnessed the brutal murder of hundreds of thousands. If you count zombie movies, Star Wars and Rambo 4, that even stretches into the millions of dead on screen.
Seven Psychopaths gets under the skin of this fascination with death and brutality, whilst also capering all over with place, with the narrative being propelled by an in-transit script. The aspect of the Seven Psychopaths that most are going to hate is this self-awareness and structural looseness, which no amount of slick cinematography and savage deaths will cover up, yet it is also the thing which gives the movie its charm.
With loads of side-stories and realised anecdotes, Seven Psychopaths is a visual bombardment of ideas and action. We get to see Tom Waits on a killing spree and high profile head-shots whilst also laughing along at the sharp dialogue. The balance between savagery and comedy is just about right, with even the cold-blooded Charlie (Harrelson) raising a few smiles. Ever elegant, Christopher Walken delivers smooth zingers whilst also getting a True Romance moment and some peyote madness in there.
Marty (Farrel) is writer, narrator and spectator here. Writer/director Martin McDonough uses the pacifist Marty to show the impotence felt by a blocked writer whilst Billy (Rockwell) shows him how to carve out your story when you’re struggling. This is all about doing your research and living some life to find something worth telling. Of course, this is more extreme than, say, writing a dating blog or something, but maybe some filmmakers should spend time having their holes filled with spikes and oil before making more torture porn.
This is the kind of movie which will mainly appeal to writer types, or more specifically the type of writer represented here. There’s people who sit in offices all day ‘writing’ like one of a million monkeys and there are people who put in hard graft to churn out bestselling novels to sell to the masses. There’s all types. But here we have the kind of writer who’s just not that good at the graft or the craft, he’s just good when he’s good. Drink has become a part of everything and he’s searching everywhere for stories. The people out there who find that drinking at their laptop has replaced actual writing will get the character and either feel comforted or parodied.
This isn’t In Bruges, obviously. Whilst in Bruges may become a classic, Seven Psychopaths is great entertainment and has plenty of great quotes and strong performances, but it just doesn’t have the heart of McDonagh’s debut feature. This is a tale so flippant it can’t really fit in any feeling, but there’s so much sexy violence and Sam Rockwell mentalness that it barely matters. That said, I reckon super filmy people are going to hate this movie, perhaps to the point of strongly worded letters to the director.