Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin FarrellWoody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko
Plot: A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster's beloved Shih Tzu.

Genre: Comedy/Crime

Awards: -
Runtime: 110min
Rating: M18 for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use.

“You didn't think I was what? Serious? You think I'm not serious just because I carry a rabbit?”

Martin McDonagh's follow-up to the fun and brutal In Bruges (2008) is the fun and brutal Seven Psychopaths. Starring an ensemble cast including Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, and Woody Harrelson, Seven Psychopaths is about a screenwriter trying to write a story about seven psychopaths for his new movie.

However, the film is more than that. To explain how the film is more than that would get your head into trouble of the dizzy kind. But that is the fun part of watching the film. McDonagh has fashioned a challenging film that toys gleefully with genre and cinematic conventions, turning it into a meta-film that is at once self-aware and self-depreciating.

While Seven Psychopaths has many characters, some lasting no more than a few minutes of screen time, the crux of the story revolves not around psychopaths but a Shih Tzu dog. Someone is outrageously angry that his Shih Tzu dog is kidnapped. The people involved in the kidnapping are nonchalant about it; they want the dog for themselves.

The story is cleverly woven and no character seems surplus to requirements. But when a character does seem to be surplus to requirements, he or she is killed in tragicomic ways. McDonagh is always toying with viewers’ expectations, and it is this sheer unpredictability that makes Seven Psychopaths fairly engaging and unexpectedly tense.

I have talked about the fun part. Now the nasty, brutal bits. Seven Psychopaths is incredibly violent and gory, at least for a film rated M18 here in Singapore. There are some really disturbing images, and for better or worse, it is all done out of perverse comedy. There is also a large sprinkling of humour of the darkest kind, and as you squirm in your seat, you can't help but be a puppet in McDonagh's twisted vision.

The performances are uniformly excellent, including a likable, goofy turn by Sam Rockwell. Farrell does well with his character's perpetual bewilderment. And Walken and Harrelson give us some badass moments of ridiculous hilarity.

McDonagh's outstanding script does not quite complement the film's tone, which goes from being light-hearted one moment, and nihilistic the next. Yes, the tonal shifts are intentional, but they don't generally work that well. But occasionally they do, and in confident bursts.

Seven Psychopaths will entertain if you are willing to do some brain work and enjoy sadism in comical mode. Cinephiles, on the other hand, will dig the countless references to films such as Kill Bill (2003, 2004), No Country for Old Men (2007), Throne of Blood (1957), Scanners (1981), and many, many more. You see, I'm digging it.

Verdict: This fun and brutal meta-film rides on its sheer unpredictability and large sprinkling of dark humour.


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