Monday 22 October 2012

Seven Psychopaths (2012) - Martin McDonagh

With a name like Seven Psychopaths you might be expecting a thriller or horror flick.  But that's exactly what director Martin McDonagh wants you to think, in a film that confounds cinematic conventions.  If anything, Seven Psychopaths is a film about film for film fans.

Or should that be what Marty (Colin Farrell) wants you to think?  Seven Psychopaths presents a film-within-a-film scenario.  Marty is a drunken, fledgling screenwriter, but his only idea for 'Seven Psychopaths' is the title.  Aided by his dog-napping friends Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken) he proceeds to write his script, which of course is the film we are watching.  How much of what we see is fabricated?  McDonagh/Marty's film blurs the lines between fact and fiction, presented with bags of amusing self-reflection.

With its ironic script filled with wry humour and plentiful jokes on death and violence, this is truly a black comedy.  And just as the genre typically draws laughs from unexpected darkness, the film turns cinematic notions on their head.  Keen film fanatics, Marty, Billy and Hans discuss film clich√©s before playing with our expectations for comedic and narrative effect - something film geeks will love.  A key scene comes halfway through where the three men discuss what's happened in the movie and where it's going.  When Marty claims the second half should be "life-affirming" and contain only dialogue, Billy replies "what, are we writing French films now?".  Towards the end, Billy reveals his perfect and hysterical all-action shoot-out finale, but in Marty's hands the film ends rather differently.

Sadly, the film doesn't live up to Marty's lofty, "life-affirming" promise.  Though it begins to address issues of the afterlife, the theme never really comes to fruition, but is dropped as with so many other ideas.  This leads to a somewhat disjointed film filled with random happenings that, like the mind of a psychopath, don't always make sense.  It also feels a little forced, the film trying too hard to be amusing and clever.

Although Farrell is the leading man, it's actually Rockwell who gives the most entertaining performance, psychotic enough for all seven psychopaths.  Walken and Woody Harrelson are also as straight-faced and comedic as ever.  Though laugh-inducing, just as the film plays with expectations, it's not as good as you might expect judging by the talented actors involved.


Watch: Seven Psychopaths is released on December 7th.