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Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths

Released 5 December 2012
Director Martin McDonagh

Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurlyenko
Writer(s) Martin McDonagh

Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 110 minutes
Genre Comedy, crime, drama
Rating 16

Chinatown on peyote.

A prodigious master of pitch-black comedy, Martin McDonagh is notoriously difficult when questioned about the meaning behind his work, and Seven Psychopaths may just be his hardest to decipher yet. Featuring a trademark self-aware offensiveness, the film is well-paced, intricately layered, amusingly metafictive and deliriously intelligent. An average line; "Why don’t we just change the name to ‘Seven Lesbians who are all handicapped and have overcome all their spazzy shit and are really nice to everybody’". Laughs may come with a smidgen of guilt.

The opening scene sees two hitmen discussing the logistics of shooting someone in the eye in lurid detail; welcome to the world of Martin McDonagh, where taboos don’t exist, no humour is dark enough, and multiple murders can occur for the sake of a doe-eyed Shih Tzu. The mutt in question is Bonnie, the most recent victim of dognapping slacker Billy (Rockwell), whose enterprise is stealing dogs and collecting the rewards with his partner in crime, Hans (Walken), in between hanging out with his best friend, alcoholic struggling writer Marty (Farrell). Marty is writing a script about seven psychopaths (including a stoic Amish man and a Vietnamese priest), but lacking stimulus; "I don’t want to just write another film about people with guns in their hands for some reason!" However, when Bonnie turns out to be the prize pooch of sociopathic mobster Charlie Costello (Harrelson), who goes on a murderous rampage to get her back, Marty may have just found the inspiration he needs. Add into the melting pot the appearance of a mystery psychopath who takes on Costello’s goons and a bad peyote trip in the desert and we’re in for a feverishly good time.

Script-wise, McDonagh is on form here; even the terrible lines are grin-worthy ("Life Affirming- Schmife Affirming") and the bizarre plot does indeed resonate by the end. But the acting is the real thing on showcase here. Rockwell brings an explosive energy and steals almost every scene (and he doesn’t even get to dance), while Christopher Walken seems to be gleefully parodying himself. Wondrous cameos from Harry Dean Stanton and Tom Waits add to the checklist of silver screen eccentrics. There are no perfect characters in McDonagh’s world; everyone is deeply flawed and dislikeable (whether alcoholic, incompetent or mentally deranged) but the assemblage of offbeat subjects is always a delight to watch.

At times you wonder whether McDonagh made this over-the-top and at times seemingly pointless film featuring one of the most exciting ensemble casts ever simply for his own amusement and couldn’t give a monkeys what anyone thinks of it. But there’s a charming level of self-effacing wit present; while discussing the idea of paradise, Billly suggests, "What, like England?"- Perhaps a poke at McDonagh’s own Irish Blood-English Raised background. Also, the main character is an alcoholic named Martin McDonagh, who also happens to be a pretty terrible writer.

While it may lack the emotional investment of In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths is an assured and rollickingly entertaining piece of work from one of Hollywood’s most interesting filmmakers.

- Cathal Prendergast