With In Bruges, Martin McDonagh had one of the greatest feature film directorial debuts ever. With such an achievement, a follow-up to that film would have to be really good to live up to expectations. Four years after In Bruges, McDonagh finally has released his follow-up film, Seven Psychopaths, and it does not disappoint. While it isn’t as neat or as emotionally resonant as In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths makes up for its shortcomings with its immense energy and ambition.
Seven Psychopaths follows Marty (an unusually subdued Colin Farrell), a writer’s block riddled screenwriter, as he tries to write his latest script “Seven Psychopaths”. However, when Marty’s eager to help best friend (Sam Rockwell) steals a crazed gangster’s (Woody Harrelson) Shih Tzu, Marty’s script becomes a little too real.
Martin McDonagh proved that he has immense screenwriting skills with In Bruges so to say that this film is a well-written film is a bit of a no-brainer. The dialogue is snappy and original, and while the characters are not as well rounded as some will like, McDonagh does write some memorable ones. However, what is surprising about McDonagh’s work on this film is that his directing skills have increased exponentially. McDonagh wasn’t bad in the director’s chair for In Bruges. It’s just that he let the script run that film. In this film, however, there is a clear visual style and an immense amount of energy coming from the visuals and how McDonagh handles the actors. McDonagh also does a fantastic job of adapting the ambitious and meta nature of his script to the screen.
While McDonagh’s work is very strong for the most part, the film does take a while to get going. This is probably a result of McDonagh trying to maneuver too many pieces in the early goings of the film, but that all pays off in a hilarious and absolutely insane second-half. Yet despite all of that, McDonagh still finds a way to find a touching place to end the film on (not including the mid-closing credits scene).
While this is arguably Martin McDonagh’s film, it would not have been as good as it is if it weren’t for three fantastic, go-for-broke performances. Christopher Walken is always good for at least a decent performance, but here he perfectly applies his mastery of deadpan line reading as a religious dog-kidnapper. This is in contrast to Woody Harrelson’s over-the-top (but suitably so) performance. Harrelson is well casted as an insane hitman and he handles it so well that it feels odd imagining anyone else in the role (despite the fact that Mickey Rourke originally was going to play the role). However, the performance that steals the film belongs to Sam Rockwell. Rockwell has a history of stealing films and receiving little credit for it from mainstreams audience and this film continues that. Rockwell is given an extremely energetic and bombastic performance but in the hands of Rockwell it is entertaining instead of annoying. He also delivers one of the best scenes of the year with a long monologue that includes his own sound effects at a camp-side fire. While Colin Farrell is the lead in this film, all he is tasked with doing is being a point of normalcy that the audience can look back to in the middle of all of the craziness. He does that gracefully.
Ambitious, well acted and genuinely funny, Seven Psychopaths is one of the best films of the year.