The archetypal movie psychopath; from Hannibal Lector to Tommy De Vito to Travis Bickle and to Norman Bates are often portrayed as cool and glamorous. Psychopaths generally populate a movie to spice up the narrative, so the common spectator can live his life through the character. But the word psychopath for me seems to have lost its power and Seven Psychopaths is an attempt to regain this power by offering a critique on movie psychopaths.
Colin Farrell is Marty Faranan, (director and writer Martin McDonough’s thinly veiled alto ego perhaps?) a screenwriter, suffering from writers block and who is in denial of his alcohol problem. He wants to write a movie about psychopaths but not one that is typical of its subject matter. He hangs around with his friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell who shares his surname with perhaps the most famous movie psycho) and who kidnaps dogs to extort money with the aid of his deeply religious friend Hans (Christopher Walken). Bickle will do almost anything to help Faranan write his screenplay so when he kidnaps the beloved dog of a well known short tempered gangster, ker-razy shit befalls our Irish hero.Compared to McDonough’s previous effort In Bruges and his brother’s similar effort The Guard this film is a step down, but there is enough promise in the film to save it from its mediocrity. With In Bruges and The Guard we had a convoluted plot and great character studies with a powerhouse performance from Brendan Gleason. In Seven Psychopaths however we have a convoluted and clichéd plot, with wafer thinly written characters. And though it is lighter in tone than the latter two films it is considerably less funny.
The postmodern aspects and references to pop culture is what many critics allude to when they compare it to Tarantino. But McDonough is a different kettle of fish. Whereas Tarantino was all about making violence look cool, McDonough is concerned with how losers and ordinary people react to it, which is more in tandem with the Coen brothers. This is what redeems the movie in a small way, Marty’s attempt to make head or tails of brutality or bloodshed and the final showdown in the desert subverts our understanding and one particular character’s expectation of how the movie will end.
Sam Rockwell gives one hundred percent as the unstable best friend to Farrell’s straight man and is continuously a joy to watch no matter what film or character he has been placed in. it is a shame that this film does not live up to his standards and the standards left by McDonough’s Belgian set film.