Published Oct 11, 2012The caustic and witty cinematic voice of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) finds fertile purchase in the whimsical meta-commentary of Seven Psychopaths. From the get-go, reality and fiction blur and bend, with both the story and the story within the story hilariously considering the personality types who create and exploit dramatic conventions.
McDonagh subtly shifts styles to suit the flights of fancy struggling alcoholic screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) toys with while trying to flesh out his vague notions for an unconventional assassin picture. Each of the titular psychopaths initially appear, along with a title card, as Marty thinks them up, but he begins to find inspiration in real life when his scam artist buddies, Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken), get him involved in the theft of a crazy gangster's cherished Shih Tzu.
The plot gets a great deal more complicated, with a series of deft twists and turns that rely on careful character work and self-aware genre deconstruction. For example, when asked for his opinion of Marty's script so far, Hans points out that all of the female characters have no voice of their own and are just victims in waiting, just like those in the film itself.
By choosing to depict the various suggestions Marty's friends make for how the story should play out, McDonagh gets to present both the movie he blatantly states that he wants to make through his lead character's frequently opined story-telling ideals and a zany send-up of the ridiculous orgy of violence and clichés audiences have been conditioned to expect.
A magnificent cast that features Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits among its ranks, not to mention some very specific and effective cameos, elevate the material from just being clever satire to something that warmly, if tragically, addresses the basic human needs for attention and connection at the heart of every fabrication. (Alliance)