Story: Irish screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) struggles with his new script. He has a title – Seven Psychopaths – but no psychopaths. Luckily, his best friend is a dog-napping failed actor (Sam Rockwell). And he and his partner (Christopher Walken) bring plenty psychopaths into Marty’s life. If only he’d be willing to write a violent action film, rather than a peace-loving Gandhi-quoting French flick.
There is much wrong with Martin McDonaugh’s Seven Psychopaths. The director of the simply brilliant In Bruges has a traditionally difficult ‘second album’. It is self-referential to the point of being self-obsessed. It has too many characters, too complicated a story line and in general, it is much, much too long.
Individual actors shine (Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Linda Bright Clay) while others falter (Sam Rockwell’s Billy is funny but without substance; Colin Farrell isn’t even acting). Dialogues are stunningly funny, but the storytelling is plodding. Monological flashbacks are fascinating, but they seem to exist in a different universe from the main story.
Comparisons are easily drawn with the Charlie Kauffman-written and Spike Jonze-directed Adaptation. But added to that must the influence of a later-career Quentin Tarantino. You know, the Tarantino of Kill Bill, Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds, who simply lacked any discipline to tell a simple, proper story.
However, Seven Psychopaths does leave me with satisfaction. ‘Cause all things taken together, I believe it. I believe that a writer-director who was succesfull with a European flick has difficulties adjusting to Hollywood. And to the expectations Hollywood has of him. I believe that McDonaugh, like Marty, did not want to make another bloody gangster movie (however enjoyable In Bruges was). I believe that this is a genuine argument against the inherently hypocritical attitude to violence in American cinema.
As it turns out in the end, it is the story of the fourth psychopath – the Vietcong priest – that is the most important. Event though it seems, for a long time, that his story has nothing to do with the rest of the film. Is his quest for revenge on the American agressors simply that – a quest for revenge – or is there more to his story? I believe that it can very well be understood as a metaphor for Seven Psychopaths itself: A film that is terribly violent exactly in order to question the violence.
Final verdict: Funny, violent, well acted but also unbalanced, plodding and self-obsessed. Seven Psychopaths will not fail to entertain you, but if the central message does not get through (which might very well happen with so much other stuff going on) this may be quite a disappointment after In Bruges.