Seven Psychopaths (London Film Festival review)

Seven Psychopaths green light Colin Farrell Christophen Walken Sam Rockwell

I’m “biast” (pro): loved In Bruges, loved the trailer

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

False advertising! There’s way more than seven psychopaths here — I count as many as 11 or perhaps even 12 psychopaths. Then again, very little about this twisted lark of a meta movie is what you’d expect it to be, even if you’ve reveled in the genius that is writer-director Martin McDonagh’s previous film, In Bruges. This feels, in fact, very much like McDonagh’s direct response to what we can only imagine was the industry’s response to Bruges. For he has made a movie — bursting with equal parts exasperation, despair, cultural criticism, and black comedy — about how he doesn’t want to make the kind of movie that Hollywood surely would like him to make, surely courted him to make after the success of Bruges. (It was probably too much to expect that he could actually get Hollywood to back such a film: this is a British production.) For his protagonist is an Irish screenwriter in Los Angeles called Marty (Colin Farrell: Fright Night)… who’s writing a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths… and it keeps ending up being full of pointless, misogynistic violence even though Marty doesn’t “want it to be one more movie about guys with guns in their hands” and laments how Hollywood objectifies women and normalizes violence against them. In between bouts of Marty’s creative, alcoholic angst, he tries to crib ideas from his small-time-crook pals Billy (Sam Rockwell: The Sitter) and Hans (Christopher Walken: Balls of Fury), who have a good sideline going in kidnapping pampered pooches only to collect the rewards later offered by heartbroken dog owners. And that’s only three psychopaths so far — Marty is a little bit psychopathic, but perhaps only in a self-destructive way — or four, if you count Hollywood itself (which I think we should). McDonagh plays in wonderfully depraved ways with Hollywood depictions of violence and the expectations that we’ve come to hold because of those tropes, but this is more anti-action movie than anything else, a Moebius strip of a creative therapy session that folds in on itself and comes full, twisted circle by the time it has exhausted itself, in gasps-of-laughter fashion. Rockwell and Walken — plus Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games) as another psychopath — are in fine form doing their usual kooky schtick, which works even better with McDonagh’s snappy, thinky dialogue. But once again, as with Bruges, the most delightful thing here is Farrell. McDonagh so far is the only filmmaker who has realized that Farrell is funny, and in a bitter, gloomy, hilariously melancholy way. So very Irish… but so very not Hollywood.

viewed during the 56th BFI London Film Festival

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