Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a few quick words on Martin McDonagh’s new flick, Seven Psychopaths. Unlike Affleck’s Argo, which seems to be getting fairly unanimous love from my colleagues, McDonagh’s film seems to be a bit more divisive.
Oddly, both films celebrate the art form of cinema. Argo highlights the industry and pre-production and Seven Psychopaths is a very focused deconstruction of the struggles of screenwriting.
Colin Farrell plays an insecure, drunk screenwriter desperately trying to craft a story out of a good title as the world around him starts to mirror his concept, bizarre characters and all.
In my Argo review I praised that film’s character actor ensemble and did a roll call. Here’s the roll call for Seven Psychopaths: Christopher Walken (that would be enough in any other movie, but he’s one of the leads!), Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Kevin Corrigan and Harry Dean Stanton. I left out Colin Farrell from that list and that might have been a bit unfair because for a leading man, he has a lot of character actor traits. Just look at his bizarro world performance in Daredevil if you don’t believe me.
Christopher Walken in particular hasn’t had a role as perfectly tailored for him in years. There was a period of time where Walken was appearing in everything, big and small, and then he kind of dropped off the map. He was still working, but not omnipresent as he was for the decade after Pulp Fiction.
Walken’s Hans doesn’t just go for the weird, funny Walken, but also plays to his dramatic strengths as well. There’s a scene where he sits down with Woody Harrelson’s Charlie that has Walken delivering a line that works on at least three different levels. There’s a depth to his character here that was a very welcome surprise.
His particular cadence and personality have made him kind of a goofy actor in most films, but people forget that he’s one of those rare actors that can easily portray comedy (The Rundown), tragedy (The Deer Hunter) and menace (True Romance). This role lets him play to all his strengths.
And he gets to play with some other fantastic actors. Walken getting to spend most of the movie playing with Sam Rockwell is one of the reasons I unapologetically took to this movie. Those are two of our best working character actors and both of them are playing rather complex people who seem innocently silly on the surface.
Farrell has a bit more work to do as a character. While he is without a doubt the main character, he has to spend most of the movie as the observer. He’s playing McDonagh, or at least an exaggerated version of him, as I imagine the writer/director was during the writing of this script.
He probably had the exact same journey that Farrell’s Marty did (and I don’t think that name is a coincidence). Writers can be struck with paralysis as they struggle to get a coherent mix of their ideology and understanding of storytelling down on the page. Making Farrell’s character that exact guy, a pacifist trying to write a movie about psychopaths, forces him to be the straight man as the world gets crazier and crazier all around him.
From a writer’s perspective, this story is incredibly smart. I mean, half of the movie is the writer sitting between literal representations of both sides of his mind. On the one side is Rockwell, who is all about the big, over the top audience satisfying violence and on the other is Walken, a man who has every reason in the world to embrace that, but has a concrete moral character that can not be swayed no matter how much he enjoys listening to Rockwell go off.
The theme of the movie is exactly represented by its three leads. That’s such an incredibly smart bit of writing. It’s simple, but easy to overlook if you just want to go for a fun time at the movies.
And the movie is fun. And funny. It is one of those kinds of movies I feel was made specifically for me, from concept to casting to final product. It’s like I was the focus group for this one.
So, I love this one. Hopefully some of you guys got to catch it this weekend and can let me know if I’m all alone with that opinion or not.