Who would have thought a little Shih Tzu could be so much trouble? For the characters in Martin McDonagh‘s Seven Psychopaths, one little dog can lead to exploding cars, pissed off gangsters and even a shootout in the desert, all on the journey to curing writer’s block and finishing an awesomely titled screenplay.
Seven Psychopaths centers around possibly-alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) as he tries to complete his screenplay, Seven Psychopaths. He’s got a great title, but he can’t seem to work out just who the psychopaths actually are. Thankfully, his faithful friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) is there to help him get inspired by real psychopaths knocking around Los Angeles. He introduces Marty to Hans (Christopher Walken), Billy’s partner in a lucrative dognapping business. The three become fast friends, but Hans and Billy just aren’t quite psycho enough to be the perfect psychopaths for Billy’s screenplay. One afternoon, the two kidnap an adorable Shih Tzu owned by Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a gangster and genuine psychopath. This little act of dognapping sets forth a chain of events that introduces Marty to some certified psychopaths, including a rabbit-toting Tom Waits, and makes him question whether he might be a psychopath himself.
Seven Psychopaths is funny, sharp, witty and always entertaining. Set in a neo-noir style Los Angeles with Quentin Tarantino dialogue and a Coen Brothers-esque concept, the film feels like Barton Fink meets Pulp Fiction meets The Player. Often times, films about writing films can feel like an ego stroke for the writer, but McDonagh makes the challenge of writing seem amusing and fun, even when it’s difficult. Marty tries to hit the bottle for inspiration, but even his mild alcoholism is played for humor instead of the troubled-alcoholic-writer-locked-in-a-room-alone cliché of most self-reflexive movie making films.
Rockwell is brilliant as the overly supportive best friend. Billy is incredibly sweet and loyal, but also a wild card that keeps the audience guessing. Harrelson beings a menacing vibe while being hilarious, whimpering about his lost dog while shooting people in the face. Walken is simply fantastic. His classic delivery and endearing bizarreness makes Hans a fascinating character with layers and depth. There are no weak links in this film. The friendship between our three heroes, Marty, Billy and Hans, is executed perfectly and audiences fall in love with this trio of misfits.
Seven Psychopaths is proof that a great film is made of great elements. The writing is fresh and humorous, the performances are spectacular and even the locations are visually engaging. It combines a Tarantino and Cohen vibe with something original to make a standout film with quotable dialogue and stellar performances from the talented cast.