It’s probably a good thing that the name Seven Psychopaths warns potential viewers that there might be graphic violence ahead, but it would be a shame if the title alone scared people away, because this offbeat comedy is weirdly delightful. Or should that be delightfully weird?
Look past the title, and you’ll notice that this is the second film from writer-director Martin McDonagh, who made the utterly brilliant In Bruges in 2008. That should be all the recommendation this film needs. The cast is a once-in-a-lifetime assemblage of remarkable actors, but that isn’t always a guarantee of quality. (I’m glaring at you, Southland Tales.) In this case, you can rest assured that the skills of the cast are not wasted. These guys are clearly having fun, and you’ll love seeing them in action.
Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter, struggling with a new script he’s decided to call “Seven Psychopaths.” He’s hardly making any progress (he’s only got one psychopath in mind so far), so his nutty best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), suggests that he include a real-life vigilante called “the Jack of Diamonds Killer” into the narrative. (We see the playing-card-themed murderer do his stuff in an early scene, at which point a caption reading “Psychopath #1” appears onscreen. Similar captions will appear throughout the film, as we meet new killers. It’s more fun than it sounds.)
Marty takes Billy’s suggestion, and toys with the idea of collaborating on the screenplay with him. Meanwhile, complications ensue due to the fact that Billy is helping 63-year-old Hans (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs for profit, and the newest pooch happens to belong to a particularly bloodthirsty gangster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson), who’s more than willing to massacre the cast in order to get his dog back.
We meet a few more “psychopaths.” Some of them only exist in Marty’s unfinished script, while others pose a genuine threat to Marty and Billy’s safety. One of them (Zachariah, marvellously played by a bunny-hugging Tom Waits) sheepishly responds to a classified ad Billy posted, asking real psychopaths to come forward and tell their stories in order to help the film project.
The fact that the main character is a screenwriter attempting to make a film with the same title as the film we’re watching is a bit of metanarrative that gets grating from time to time, but it’s a minor flaw in a film that’s full to bursting with surprises, shocks and genuine laughs. It lacks the magic of In Bruges, but this is an entertaining, funny film that I already want to watch again. Be prepared for a little graphic violence (mostly in flashbacks and “imaginary” scenes) and you’ll enjoy some sharp writing, goofy plot twists and marvellous performances. This is one you’ll want to check out.