From In Bruges to “In Hollywood”. Seasoned playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh directed his first feature in 2008 to audiences who lapped-up his semi-serious, black-comedy. In Bruges was set within a quaint and picturesque town, so his move to the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles is a different setting to say the least! Seven Psychopaths deconstructs Colin Farrell’s script-writing obsessive ‘Marty’ amidst the wannabe film-stars and Californian cliffs with a dark tone that In Bruges fans will be happy to see again.
Opening on the Hollywood sign, drunk screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) searches for an idea for a script. Marty’s drinking-buddy Billy (Sam Rockwell) thieves dogs from the rich with the help of kind elderly gentleman Hans (Christopher Walken). Through Billy’s criminal enterprise, Marty is dragged into this world as bullets blow-off limbs with “reality” and fantasy colliding as we meet dog-obsessed gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson replaying his smart-alecky but “oh-so-charming” villain we’ve seen before in Zombieland). Between the script Marty writes and the drama unfolding on-screen, McDonagh’s twisty-plot and quirky-characters simply don’t hold our attention. The final act of Seven Psychopaths in the harsh-lit desert, drags the film to a convoluted close that we desperately hope would’ve been more satisfying. Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Pitt even appear in a Pulp Fiction homage ‘prologue’, before they are promptly shot in the head. Considering neither appears on the poster and casting them purposefully echoed their roles in Boardwalk Empire, the sun had set on these characters as soon as they appeared on screen – and the film is littered with this type or predictability throughout.
Seven Psychopaths flips between a mystery (as we seek to know who each of the Seven Psychopaths are) and the established Hitchcock favourite “innocent man embroiled in criminal activity” plot. Like the mental-states of the psychopaths featured, the story seems to be unbalanced and uncontrolled as we dart between sequences and moments of fantasy and reality without clear rhyme or reason. Rather than playfully toying with the audience, Seven Psychopaths jarringly attempts to shock; arrogantly believing it has pulled the wool over your eyes – when anyone paying a slight bit of attention will see the ‘reveal’ of the final three psychopaths coming a mile off.
Marty’s conflicted attitude about ending the film refects the directors own difficulties as McDonagh struggles to resolve all seven psychopathic threads. Though highlighting violence in cinema – and its effect on audiences, Seven Psychopaths delivers too late with no clear statement on the issue.
It is disappointing that such a sharply-shot, gun-toting comedy fails to meet the well-structured film-junkie movie it desperately wants to be and the ambitious ending finishes the film on a whimper rather than the bang it hoped for.