SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS is a bit of a peculiar movie, because, in Martin McDonagh's second feature film, the individual parts actually work better on their own than they do collectively. In fact, SEVEN SCHIZOPHRENICS might be a more suitable title as the film can be all over the place at times, and often doesn't really know what it wants to be. It goes through stretches where it's a comedy, a meta flick about filmmaking, a satirical commentary on film expectations (namely crime-movie tropes) and a few others, feeling more like a series of vignettes threaded together than a cohesvie picture. That's not to say a film has to be put into one definable box, but, if it's going to try to cross-pollinate, it'd better be able to stick the landing on each genre or sub-genre it's adding into the mix. While SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS has its fair share of moments due to Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson, all of whom turn in fantastic scene-stealing appearances, the film is too often nonsensical in its focus and quite undisciplined in what it seeks to accomplish. There are quite a few interesting characters to latch onto, and much like his prior film, IN BRUGUES, McDonagh provides them with enough to sharp dialogue to keep the film enticing, but the smile on your face that springs up during the film is bound to come more from your wonderous disbelief at the bizarreness unfolding on-screen than the quality of it.
Colin Farrell plays it straight in SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS as a screenwriter who can't quite come up with a script for the movie he's dead-set on making, which is of course called SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. He can barely come up with one quality psychopath, let alone seven, and the way he's writing, his film lacks any type of fluidity to it, as it systematically tells seven different stories of seven different psychopaths, none of which are really connected to one another... oh, sort of like the movie that's actually happening around this fictional movie being written. Ah, you see what McDonagh did there.
Farrell's best friend Billy (Rockwell) is in the dog-napping business with his partner Hans (Walken), a 63-year-old man who hasn't worked a real job in 20 years, and when they happen to steal the beloved Shih Tzu of feared mobster Charlie Costello (insert emotional Harrelson here), Farrell gets thrust way in over his head into a world where the bad guy will do just about anything to get his dog back and his friends will do just about anything but the sensible thing of giving her back. As SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS progresses, Farrell is able to chronicle the tales of the various psychopaths he encounters, and the film itself begins to play out the very script the character is writing, only it's a bit of a meandering and disjointed creative piece to begin with, making the film that's following it the same.
Walken turns in his usual good work, although the strangeness we've come to expect from a Walken role is turned down quite a bit here. The quirkiness of the characters lays in the experience and wisdom he's compiled over the years and the fearlessness he shows at all times, which stems from one of the film's many strange and seemingly tacked-on details that don't quite further the story, and only serve to receive some type of forced praise for a not-so-clever cleverness.
Harrelson puts an interesting spin on the underworld tough guy who can't cope with the loss of his dog. There's something inherently funny about a man who can go from being a stone cold killer one second to a weepy slobbering mess the next when the topic of his lost canine comes up. The details, such as Costello's affinity for a particular gun, inject SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS with a good portion of its humor, although some of those bits were a bit too few and far between for my liking, causing the film to hit these dragging lulls at several points during the second act. But allow Harrelson and Rockwell to share the screen for a crucial scene, and what you're left with is a moment you wish could have been multiplied many times over in order to fill the rest of this meandering film.
Rockwell truly is the star of SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, which shouldn't come as a surprise, considering some of the outstanding work he's done in the past. His chemistry with all the other cast members around him is what makes SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS work when it does, and his over-the-top verbal description of what should be a key shootout in the unwritten script easily makes for the film's high point.
You'd think when you brought all of these tremendous elements together, you'd get a fantastic film. However, that's not the case with SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, which just never seemed to get going as it should have considering how strongl its individual players were contributing. There's a joy that comes with watching Walken and Rockwell and Harrelson and, to a much lesser degree, Farrell and Tom Waits work, but it's because they are who they are charismatically doing what they do. McDonagh gives them the frame work with which to excel, but the material never quite manages to elevate it beyond a series of solid moments with plenty of mediocre stuck in between.
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