A coherent review on some characters who aren't.
Violent psychopaths— one of Hollywood’s favorite cash cows. But writer/director Martin McDonagh is brilliantly aware of this fact. His second film Seven Psychopaths dissects, criticizes, and admires the psychopath thriller genre from within the genre itself. This is a movie working on many different levels. At face value, it’s an entertaining, dark comedic-thriller. But it also explores the role of violence, satisfaction, and audience reaction to film.
The plot is set in motion when con artists unwittingly steal the beloved pet Shih Tzu of a vicious gangster. This unleashes an unpredictable chain of brutal, tragic, and hilarious consequences. The characters drive this film into all sorts of crazy places; and I wouldn’t want anyone else behind wheel.
Most movies are lucky to have at least one memorable character. Seven Psychopaths has...seven. The characters are brought to life by one of the best ensemble casts in years. Christopher Walken masterfully balances insanity and wisdom as a pacifist psychopath. Sam Rockwell plays an irrational con artist that frequently evokes the audience into fits of laughter. Woody Harrelson effectively portrays a trigger happy psychopathic mobster who is willing to kill for his cherished pet Shih Tzu. And Colin Farrell, Tom Waits, and Linda Clay deliver just as memorable performances.
The writing is top notch. Aside from fantastic characters, the dialogue and pacing kept me engaged from start to finish. The script has the energy of a Quentin Tarantino film, but stands as a truly unique piece of work. The juxtaposition of shocking violence and hilarious dialogue gives the film a strangely electric momentum. It has more plot twists than M. Night Shylamalan could shake a stick at. Originality is definitely the script’s strongest feature, diverting into off-beat tangents that successfully set it apart from its genre peers.
The directing is equally effective. McDonagh has a talent for knowing when to do flashy camera moves and when to let imagery breathe. There is an exchange between Walken and Harrelson’s characters that involves almost no talking, which Mcdonagh captures simply and with restraint. This restraint gives us one of the film’s best scenes, and one of my personal favourites of the year. However, Mcdonagh is perfectly capable of long one-shot takes and superbly odd angles when they suit the context. This more extreme directing style is expertly applied in the chaotic third act.
This film is definitely not for everybody. The brutal violence, coarse language, and unconventional narrative directions will no doubt turn away some viewers. However, if you can stomach it, Seven Psychopaths is a refreshing original film among the surplus of sequels, remakes, and paranormal activities. As for the rest of you, when has Christopher Walken ever been a waste of time?