Monday, 22 October 2012

LFF: Seven Psychopaths Review

Director/Writer: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Harry Dean Stanton, Olga Kurylenko, Linda Bright Clay

Plot: Martin (Farrell) is an alcoholic screenwriter whose latest idea for film called “Seven Psychopaths” is lacking inspiration. His friend Billy (Rockwell) tries to lend a hand but instead gets him involved in a kidnapping, murder and the company of psychopaths. Suddenly Marty’s story starts gaining some frighteningly real inspiration...

Martin McDonagh’s knack for dialogue has served him well with retaining an audience. It is clear that since In Bruges, he has become a man people desperately want to work with. Cut to Seven Psychopaths four years after In Bruges and that notion has been substantiated with an all-star cast including Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Colin Farrell. Along with a spectacular cast, McDonagh has moved over to the seemingly glamorous turf of Hollywood, California. His success is well-earned and with his second directorial feature McDonagh looks to become the new celebrated screenwriter.

Brimming with ideas, Seven Psychopaths is not your average popcorn movie. Instead, McDonagh crafts a wildly irreverent black-comedy that proves to be a successful pastiche of the Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino and Charlie Kaufman’s style. There is originality within his script and whilst some may find his muses scattered knowingly throughout the film, McDonagh highlights his own uniqueness. Inane chit-chat of a Seinfeldian sort is nothing new but the brazen way in which McDonagh uses it is. For instance, Rockwell’s Billy constantly speaks of trivial and clandestine affairs as if secrecy is a fabled idea – regularly mentioning his illegal activity or maniacal alter-ego as if no one would worry. The same strange openness is also reflect in the criminal activity with characters sporting guns in public or discussing murders with total disregard for discretion.

In Bruges handled refinement in the same way, by throwing it out the window. It makes the films wildly fun and memorable. We are privy to an alternate way of life where people say and do what they feel. The most appealing characters are the ones who flaunt their frankness (such as Rockwell, who outshines everybody in this film) and the opposing conventional ones (like Farrell) who are of less interest. McDonagh tries not to sour the film with too much normality, even though it understandably needs to stay grounded from time to time, and gladly adds a torrent of violence and chaos to keep the momentum running.

The narrative is relatively linear but interruptions in the story are superfluous at points. The presentation of the seven psychopaths is not always etched into the story neatly, leading to moments of messy punctuation. This issue is partly a result of the self-reflexive arc that some may find too smart for its own good. McDonagh wryly makes you aware of the issues in the screenplay but this can be a dangerous artistic move. Trying to laugh off the inconsistencies does not negate them completely. Nevertheless, it is a film attempting to bring some ingenuity to the art form and that should be embraced.

Watching Seven Psychopaths is a hugely fun experience that boasts hilarious set-pieces and dialogue, along with an astounding ensemble of actors giving it their all to a project that is clearly exciting and entertaining them as much as it is the audience. McDonagh packs the film full of energy and moments of uproarious comedy, giving you incentive to watch it again and again. Problems do occur in the film such as ideas that may have looked good on the page but barely work in practice, and an ironic tone that sometimes appears aloof. Despite this though, McDonagh’s remarkable drive to pull it off makes it a greatly commendable and magnetic film.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

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