Seven Psychopaths is a dark and very violent comedy in the Tarantino mould. What sets it apart is the way it satirizes not only film violence but redemptive violence in general. Add in the central story about a screenwriter’s need to write something new and meaningful, the intelligent dialogue and the excellent acting, and surely greatness awaits. Unfortunately, the violence-for-laughs thing doesn’t work for me (as you know) and the plot is just too silly for greatness.
Seven Psychopaths is written and directed by Martin McDonagh, who made In Bruges, a brilliant and twisted dark and violent comedy (obviously McDonagh likes that genre). Once again McDonagh brings Colin Farrell in for the lead role and Farrell is perfectly cast as the screenwriter trying to write a different kind of thriller, one about seven psychopaths that doesn’t end with a showdown where the bad guys all get killed. But he has a serious case of writers’ block. Given that the writer’s name is Marty, it is not a stretch to view this film as McDonagh’s own struggle to write a thriller that doesn’t succumb to the cliches of redemptive violence. For a pacifist, this struggle is hugely entertaining to watch. But the payoff just isn’t there as the film’s silliness continues through to the bitter end.
Joining Farrell are Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Harry Dean Stanton and Tom Waits. These men are also perfectly cast, in this case as psychopaths (make of that what you will, but the acting in Seven Psychopaths is a real joy to watch).
Seven Psychopaths has many brilliant scenes and a thought-provoking story. If only McDonagh had found a way to tell his story without the silliness and the ultra-violence. It gets ***+ anyway. My mug is up.