Review: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

There isn’t much that differentiates McDonagh’s In Bruges from his latest, pairing effective wit with an incisive script that unsubtly picks apart the behind-the-scenes aspects of screenwriting with outlandish results. A purposefully absurdist view of one of the more important parts of filmmaking, Seven Psychopaths fervently expands upon its strong suits by utilizing a cast of eclectic characters and clever storytelling techniques, some of which won’t strike a chord with viewers that were looking for something wholly different.

From the get-go, it becomes apparent that Psychopaths is a slight far cry from what it was marketed as, forgoing the traditional seriocomic approach In Bruges took to instead embrace the wild duality of the seedy underworld central character Marty (Colin Farrell) is thrust into. Struggling to write a screenplay of his own, Marty’s best friend Billy (Rockwell) befriends local dognapper Hans (Walken), just to nab the wrong dog from the wrong man (Harrelson) to land everyone in quite the shitty predicament. What ensues is a mash-up of an increasingly violent cat-and-mouse caper and frequent flashes of genius for the titular screenwriter, drawing inspiration at every turn from characters he never thought he’d meet even in his wildest dreams.

While said individuals, Billy especially, are quite obviously the physical embodiment of each chunk of his work-in-progress, Seven Psychopaths still feels a bit aimless, shallow even, despite how frequently entertaining the proceedings are. It fails to strike a balance between its dramatic elements, exhibited via informative, characterizing flashbacks and the self-aware meta-esque vibe it juggles throughout the present. Even so, the film enjoys purposefully embracing this unevenness, making it all that much more entertaining in hindsight and easier to sit back and enjoy the substantially sparse ride.

All things considered, Seven Psychopaths is an admirably inventive if focally rattled effort, and another successful one nonetheless from writer/director Martin McDonagh. Entertaining characters and their respective backstories are at the forefront of this gleefully violent experiment, further proving that this particular production is another welcome surprise as part of 2012’s dynamite last leg thus far. It’s not what you’d expect, but that’s a good thing, remaining a wry, periodically incisive albeit fantastical look at the screenwriting process in between frequent laughs and appealingly unorthodox occurrences. In short, Seven Psychopaths threw me for a loop in the best of ways, however it doesn’t quite realize its full potential in some areas, even if it does come pretty damn close.

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