A Comedy About Movie Violence... Sort of
Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando
Here's a free lesson from Screenwriting 101: Whenever there's a writer as one of the characters in a movie, you can be sure that the director is giving us their own opinions about a certain subject within the context of the film. Your enjoyment of Seven Psychopaths, the latest film from writer/director Martin McDonagh, will depend entirely on whether or not you think McDonagh's commentary about movie violence works.
The writer in Seven Psychopaths is named Marty (Colin Farrell, who's actually quite funny the film) - who in absolutely no way is a reference do Mr. McDonagh - a nice guy struggling with a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths. It's a great title, but a movie about psychopaths doesn't really appeal to Marty, much to the dismay of his best friend, Billy (the always reliable Sam Rockwell), an actor and part-time dog thief. Billy is excited at the idea of a movie about psychopaths and is looking for any way he can help Marty out of his funk. As fate would have it, he steals the dog of a violent gangster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson), forcing himself, Hans (his partner in crime played by Christopher Walken, need I say more?) and Marty to get out of town fast.
Seven Psychopaths isn't a bad movie, it just loses itself within its own plot. There are moments in the movie that are quite funny, which works to the film's advantage in trying to point out the ridiculous nature of screen violence. There are also very dark moments involving Walken's story that clash with the comic tone the film seems intent on maintaining. They feel false, especially because the film is established as a comedy from the very beginning.
I was disappointed by Seven Psychopaths' ever shifting tone and expected more out of a film as meta as this one. There are scenes that recall what a gifted comedy director McDonagh but they're short lived as a result of his need to show us that movie violence is a problem in modern cinema. I get what he's trying to do, but I don't think he's the right filmmaker to execute these ideas properly.