I just saw Martin McDonagh’s new film, Seven Psychopaths. I walked into the theater hoping this movie would have lots and lots of blood and guns (check) and lots of dumb fun (head-scratch). Ok. What’s it like? Jeez, where to start. Let’s just say the film has lots of stuff going on. It certainly crosses genres in ways I’m not used to seeing. And, I like to see EVERYTHING. To be fair, I’m not sure how to describe it accurately or even well.
I could say it’s a film within a film based on writer’s block. I could say it’s a highly stylized film strung together by violent scenes of slap shot murders and self-immolation. I could say it’s a film on friendship and peace. I could say it’s a winky and funny action adventure film peppered with pop cultural references, a la Quentin Tarantino. Gosh, I could even say it’s a stab at a modern mashup of a play on ideas ripped from such varied sources, such as, Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett), No Exit (Jean-Paul Sartre), 8 ½ (Federico Fellini) and Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa). Wait! There’s more. To top it all off, it also stars an adorable Shih-Tzu with cameo appearances by snow white bunnies. I imagine the cute animals were thrown in to reassure the bewildered moviegoer that THIS film is not without morals. It draws a firm line at hurting animals. As to whether Seven Psychopaths combines all these disparate elements successfully, or if it even is a successful film, is another question entirely.
McDonagh is a successful playwright of violent and darkly comic plays, such as the Leenane Triology, the Aran Islands Trilogy, the Pillowman, and A Behanding in Spokane. Seven Psychopaths is his second full length feature film after his well-received first, In Bruges. His body of work is dark and a little dour. Funny, though. I mustn’t forget he’s clever and funny. He’s complicated is what I’m trying to get at.
In this film, Colin Farrell plays the character of Martin, a Hollywood screenwriter with writer’s block. It’s also the story of his entanglement with friends Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken) in their dognapping business when things turn unexpectedly for the worse when they steal crime boss Charlie’s (Woody Harrelson) beloved pooch.
Somehow I get the sense this film is more of a slapdash creation that throws together these elements of “Hollywood hit movies” funneled via the dark and twisted humors of Mr. McDonagh. It’s all of the bad ideas consisting of Hollywood formulas thrown into the blender. But who is this film for? Is it for the guys who love violence? Is it for the sniffy film nerd who likes his with a side of wit? (Me?) I dunno. I noticed the momentum or feeling throughout the film kept starting and stopping. The film kept changing directions. Not knowing who the film is for or what the film is about is a big weakness. It’s something a filmmaker must realize: the audience is as much a part of the movie as the actors and director. A screenwriter and director should take into account the audience experience. Forget Hollywood. Remember your audience. We need some love and direction, too.