Re:View – ‘Seven Psychopaths’

The Arts

Mental illness is nothing to laugh about. Except when Martin McDonagh’s writing about it, and as he’s set his new movie in LA there’s an awful lot of it about.

McDongah’s black comedy ‘In Bruges’ was one of the most criminally underrated films of its year. Writer/director McDonagh’s background in theatre writing is matched – a rare thing, this – by his visual acuity, appalling bad taste and love of movies, and here it finds the perfect form in a story that appears to play out like the thinking man’s Tarantino, but in fact is closer to Tom Stoppard’s metafictional forays into film.

Marty (Colin Farrell) is an LA writer whose screenplay, “Seven Psychopaths”, has got as far as its title. Billy (Sam Rockwell) is Marty’s annoying best friend, a dog thief who wants to help Marty write his script. Hans (Christopher Walken) is Billy’s peculiar, charming partner in crime, and hides a past secret. Charlie (Woody Harrelson) is a psychopathic gangster whose ridiculously cute dog Billy and Hans have stolen. Billy advertises for psychopaths to help his mate write the script, and problems escalate exponentially – or at least, they appear to.

For with this being a McDonagh movie none of it goes where you think it should, so that when Marty is told he’s lousy at writing women’s roles, and that the second half of his film will consist of three men bickering in the desert, you suddenly realise that’s what you’re going to see on the screen. This is a very playful roam around the subjects of writing, fiction, reality, Hollywood, life, death (lots, and the gorier the better) and even dogs – and if that’s not what you’re in the mood for you can be like the critic in the LA Times who appears to have taken umbrage over the idea of anyone attacking Hollywood. It’s a writers’ film, and best enjoyed with that in mind.

Marty is conflicted; he wants to write something life-affirming but knows Hollywood will only accepts his script if it’s stuffed full of gun violence and sexism, so what he creates becomes what we see in an exercise that allows for having your cake and eating it. It’s a cool intellectual exercise packed with very funny scenes, and if it doesn’t add up to much – the characters are, after all, ciphers intended to make McDonagh’s points – it’s still a terrific way to spend an evening, if only for the sheer pleasure of seeing Walken refusing to put his hands up at gunpoint and Tom Waits with a rabbit.

The trailer, by the way, is appalling – don’t be put off by it.

8 comments on “Re:View – ‘Seven Psychopaths’”

  1. Colin Pierce says:

    Curious to know why you don’t talk about the two women in the picture? Do they do nothing in the film that merits even a mention of their names?

  2. John Howard says:

    Women? Those lovely fluffy creatures. Isn’t there a phrase somewhere about eyes and candy. Maybe they do the washing up?

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    Careful men. I noticed that as well, but I, keeping my head down.
    Best watch the adjectives as that shadow above you may be neither a small cloud nor H. M., but rather the bluebird of not best pleased and fully loaded.
    I, for one, after looking at the men, think the two women are the show. 🙂

  4. snowy says:

    Olga Kurylenko [Quantum of Solace, Hitman] and Abbie Cornish [Limitless, Sucker Punch]. The cast list is in order of appearance, so they are quite tricky to find.

    [My radio is telling me that the latest outpouring of the Twiglet franchise is coming out. Time to start unscrewing the doors, and building an inner core or refuge.]

  5. admin says:

    The two women in the picture are indeed victims of the film’s statement about Marty that ‘you can’t write women’ as they have nothing at all to do in the film – one is shot and the other simply vanishes. They’re on the poster because they’re sexy. And they’re not psychopaths, which leaves the one remaining psychopath – who is of ethnic origin – missing from the poster.

    Oh, and if you think that only makes six, you’re right, but to say any more would spoil the film.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    This is beginning to sound like “The Last of Sheila”. The Twilight thing has opened here and I saw an interview with some patrons who were partly there just to see how the whole thing ended and there is certainly a natural feeling of wanting to see the end even if you haven’t enjoyed the earlier ones all that much.
    Miriam Margolyes was interviewed on our radio this morning. She is performing her one woman piece “Dickens’ Women” but the interviewer had to ask about Prof. Sprout in Harry Potter. She said that no one could resent a role that makes you familiar everywhere. She was mobbed in Lithuania.

  7. Vickie says:

    Saw it (a few weeks ago). Loved it. If you have not done so, GO! Great fun…

  8. Helen Martin says:

    She’s here for a week and I just have to go! Full page interview in today’s paper with photos.

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