Every once in a while a film will take you on an unsuspecting journey, leaving you enchanted by its mystifying misdirection. By the end, we’re never entirely sure how we reached our destination, but the bodacious turns only galvanize the smiles that creep across our face. Seven Psychopaths, a blood soaked comedic frenzy, is the kind of film that makes its trailer look like a red herring. Much like his previous effort, In Bruges, a solemn comedy grounded in the time-worn titular city, writer/director Martin McDonagh mitigates any form of expectation in Seven Psychopaths by navigating through dark, comically twisted avenues. The start of our insane adventure with McDonagh begins with an introduction to Marty (Colin Farrell), a struggling screenwriter that can’t get past the title of his next effort. With an indiscriminate taste for anything alcoholic, Marty spends most of his days drinking and lounging with his friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), an out of work actor that has shades of madness twinkling in his eyes.
When he’s not hanging with Marty, Billy makes side cash by kidnapping dogs with Hans (Christopher Walken), a tender, effervescent old man. The ploy implemented by Billy and Hans isn’t a vicious one. They simply abduct a dog, hold on to it momentarily, and then return the dog back to its owner in lieu of cash. It’s a genius plan with little blow-back Until Hans and Billy steal the prized canine possession of an emotionally distraught gangster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson). Marty’s mental block gets annihilated when he unwittingly gets mixed up in Billy and Hans’ plan to rip-off the trigger happy Charlie. From here, Seven Psychopaths unfurls in an unpredictable manner as blood runs wild in the Hollywood hills, and a small dog acts as a catalyst to discussions revolving around cinematic violence and film convention, a notion that hearkens back to the playful nature of Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. Yet, Seven Psychopaths, for all its gleeful, exploration of cartoon violence, is an impressive balancing act between comedic lunacy and morbid drama.
McDonagh, whose writing style affords his characters a level of dialog that would make Tarantino jealous, has an impeccable knack for transforming dark moments into pure comic bliss. Mind you, his script for Seven Psychopaths meanders from time to time, but it’s a colorful send up of the buddy genre with shades of a noir. Supplementing the quick-witted dialog are vivacious, self-involved characters that are despicable and thoroughly charming. Demonstrating this is an infectious and endearing gag that finds every character completely oblivious of their own neurotic nature. Knowing how easily McDonagh conjures up wonderful characters, it should come as no surprise that his script acts as a playground for a bevy of terrific actors. Leading the pack is Colin Farrell, whose facial contortions and dismayed Irish accent deliver a great deal of laughs from a character trying to avoid a maelstrom of crazy. Deliriously bouncing off Firth are Rockwell and Walken, with Rockwell stealing nearly every scene he’s in.
Not since Confessions of a Dangerous Mind has Rockwell been completely uninhibited in a role like this. From his devilish grin to his confounding aloofness, Rockwell is the spiritual core to Seven Psychopaths. If Rockwell provides Psychopaths with an immeasurable buoyancy, Walken surprisingly grounds it with a performance that blends the line between melancholy and saccharine. Walken could’ve raised hell with his flamboyant accent and bug eyes, but his restraint sands down McDonagh’s abrasive tonal shifts. Speaking of abrasive turns, Woody Harrelson is beyond terrific in his antagonistic role. Spastically violent and shockingly sensitive, Harrelson imbues his character with flourishes that are both hilariously sadistic and oddly touching. McDonagh behind the lens never restricts his actors. Instead, he lets them bathe in their character’s insanity and self-absorbed tendencies. Whether it’s Rockwell or a small, bizarre performance from singer/actor Tom Waits, the fearless actors bring Martin McDonagh’s fun, madcap vision to life. The result is a witty and wholly enjoyable film experience. Watching it is akin to partaking in a road trip with your friends, where you bypass main roads and highways in favor of dangerous bends, unfiltered discussions and mercurial paths.