In Bruges is my favourite film of all time. I won’t go into the specific reasons here as to why this is so but I will say that I went into Seven Psychopaths (director Martin McDonagh’s second major feature) very conscious of the inevitable bias I would have either for or against the film and also forcing myself to remember: this is not In Bruges 2. I watched it with high expectations and I am happy to say that I was not disappointed.
The outline of the plot here is simple and quirky enough to entice. Colin Farrell, an Irish screenwriter, lives in Hollywood and is struggling to perfect (nay begin) a screenplay that in fact he only has the title for: Seven Psychopaths. Off-the-wall friend, Billy [Sam Rockwell] is eager to help but spends much of his time in the “dognapping business” with partner-in-crime Christopher Walken. Take this synopsis as merely a guide to what is essentially a film about films and therefore a treat for film buffs.
The story centres on Farrell finding inspiration for the seven lead characters for his story within a story and it’s this premise that allows for such a great ensemble. Farrell, Rockwell and Walken are joined by gangster antagonist Woody Harrelson with Tom Waits thrown in for good measure. All invited shine and nobody feels overshadowed or out of place but there is one particular highlight.
We already know Sam Rockwell can pull off stellar performances and hold an audience’s attention pretty much single-handedly (see 2009’s Moon) but full credit to his casting here. If writer/director McDonagh did not write Billy for Rockwell, I would be amazed. He so perfectly encompasses this character that it would not surprise if he earns a nomination or two for his exceptional portrayal of this movie-loving, hilariously lovable maniac.
Perfect, this film isn’t however. Throughout, McDonagh plays with expectations and that seems to be the point. But occasionally it might feel to some that the way the film comments on movie clichés could in fact be said of the film itself. Then again, you could go one step further and say that it was purposely made this way for that very reason (can he really be that clever?).
Whatever the drawbacks to making a film this way, these are vastly outweighed by the positives. Having such a fantastic cast of proven actors to play with (I’ll mention Sam Rockwell again) has made McDonagh’s already intelligent, funny and (yes I’ll say it) psychotic story a joy to watch. If his first two cinematic efforts are a sign of things to come, please don’t make us wait another four years for the next.