Film review: Seven Psychopaths (15)


Seven Psychopaths
(15) 110mins

Martin McDonagh's pitch-black gore-fest is a sharp comedic treat although it veers wildly and ends up in competition with itself

Stuck in an office, kicking around for ideas, little wonder that so many writers turn to the act of writing for inspiration, even less wonder that they turn writers into action heroes.

To be frank, it is a vaguely dispiriting notion - but it can be done.

Charlie Kaufman had huge success creating a sweaty fictional Charlie Kaufman writing Adaptation and Stephen King is forever casting the blocked author as a mighty warrior.

Now acclaimed Limehouse-based Irish writer-director-producer Martin McDonagh follows up the inspired In Bruges with a slice of bleak comedy which features a central character called Marty going toe to toe with the fiendish cunning of a blank piece of paper.

Marty (Colin Farrell) dreams of finishing his screenplay Seven Pyschopaths but he lacks focus and drinks too heavily.

"I got the title - I just haven't been able to come up with all the psychopaths yet," he says.

He becomes embroiled in the petty dramas of actor-cum-dognapper Billy (Sam Rockwell) and his debonair partner Hans (Christopher Walken).

It is typical of this lopsided film that Marty becomes a subplot, rapidly overwhelmed with the end-of-the-pier loop-the-loop of his gun-totin' circus freak pals. (He doesn't actually announce he's become a subplot but every other story device gets a name check.)

Bonkers Billy takes the beloved shih tzu of psychopath Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson) and before the slabs of this stop-start thriller settle, vast and skewiff like a toppled henge, there will appear the requisite number of psychos to fulfil the promise of the title.

Rockwell and Walken in particular have fun with McDonagh's rich (if bitter) confection. Highlight is Billy's fantasy final shoot-out gore-fest that if it wasn't played out as a dream sequence in this movie would be a shoo-in for Tarantino's next.

Without the central sparkle of McDonagh's characterisation and script, this project would have veered into the roadside ditch, upended and undone by its mannered quirkiness and love of self.

But the sharp dialogue, juicy riffs, plentiful gore, sly sense of humour and engaging performances just about keep this ramshackle drama on track.

Pity McDonagh was behind the camera.

A kinder, if crueller, director would have culled some of the excesses and let the best of the writer shine.

Film students would weep (because they love a bit of meta) but the rest of us wouldn't leave the cinema talking of diamonds in the dust.

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