This was going to be a review about Seven Psychopaths and I was going to mention that I hadn’t yet seen In Bruges but intended to as I enjoyed this one so much. Well, guess what happened? I saw In Bruges and it blew me away. There was no way I could talk about Seven Psychopaths and only mention In Bruges in passing because frankly, it’s the better movie.
Why not just do two reviews? Well, I could do that but I believe these two films have enough in common to justify a tandem review. Now, let’s see if I can pull this off.
I guess the best place to start is with writer/director Martin McDonagh. Before either of these films, he received acclaim with a short called Six Shooter. Considering that it’s now part of the Cinema 16 collection of European shorts, it’s fairly safe to say that his debut feature was going to be pretty good from the get-go (that debut feature being In Bruges).
So what’s so special about In Bruges? It’s the story of two hitmen sent to Bruges by their boss after a botched job. All they have to do is remain there and wait for a call from him. The hitmen in question are Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell). Their boss Harry is played with menacing hilarity by Ralph Fiennes.
It’s one of those movies that has a perfect balance of humour, drama, action and subtlety all played to the fairytale backdrop of that beautiful Belgian city. With a near note-perfect script, this film is a perfect example of great film-making. All characters are well written, three dimensional and play off each other in fun and believable ways. You really get a sense of who they are and for better or worse, why they make the choices they do.
There’s only one cringe-worthy moment and that’s where hotel owner Marie says to Harry at the climax, “Why don’t you two just put your guns down and go home?” to which he replies, “Don’t be stupid; this is a shootout!” It’s lines like this (for me, at least) that risk the suspension-of-belief that has been set up within the realms of the film for the viewer as it makes me feel as if the character is suddenly aware of his role as “bad guy” in the movie – other than that, flawless.
Now, Seven Psychopaths also stars Colin Farrell, who the more roles I see him in, the more I get why people like him so much. Well, he doesn’t so much star in this, it’s an ensemble piece but he is our protagonist. We also have Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits and Abbie Cornish in the mix.
This is an Arthouse film. It took a while for me to reach that conclusion but it is. Part action, part comedy but too meta to really be either (as a standard genre). The main point of this film is that it’s a story about a Hollywood writer trying to come up with a new script. This film is that script and a handful of the characters know it.
Now, as I stated with that line from In Bruges, I’m one that’s been known to hate on films where the characters address what stage of the flick we’re in to. It usually makes me think, “lazy hack writing!” But as it’s the focal point of this one, it actually works.
Again, the subject matter is the underworld and the folk who inhabit it and like In Bruges, viewing them from a slightly different angle from the norm to show us something a little bit unlike what we’ve seen of characters like this before.
Seven Psychopaths is not perfect. It takes a little time for it to gain momentum but when it does, it doesn’t stop and the climax is quite satisfying. If you like your films slightly left-of-centre, check this one out.