Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to In Bruges is an undemanding but very entertaining shaggy dog black comedy that follows Colin Farrell’s alcoholic screenwriter’s attempts to write the titular screenplay. His difficulties in doing so are exacerbated by his messy personal life and his involvement with the peculiar Billy (Sam Rockwell) and the dognapping ring that he’s part of.
With its large cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Abby Cornish, Tom Waits and Christopher Walken, the movie harks back to the densely plotted Tarantino initiated mid ‘90s crime comedy dramas like True Romance and Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, but is an altogether more relaxed affair, ambling along enjoyably until it arrives at a satisfactory, but not earth shattering, conclusion. The pace is never rushed, which makes some of the more horrid acts of violence a bit more startling than they might be in a more frenetically paced film.
Like In Bruges, much of the pleasure derived from the film comes from the interaction of the characters, but Christopher Walken’s Hans unassumingly steals the film. Walken dials down the extreme quirkiness that has been the substance of many of his performances of the past twenty years (his very appearance on screen has become a sort of instantly identifiable semaphore for weird), and Hans’ gentle, loving nature, rather than his bizarre behaviour, defines his character. This is truly an ensemble piece in which the sum of the parts is very much what makes the film a success. So while Walken’s Hans is given more room to breathe than the other cast members, the fact that the other characters are more two dimensional (even Farrell’s Marty, as the nominal lead/narrative voice, is pretty much an amalgam of drunken screenwriter tropes) doesn’t make them any less fun.
Seven Psychopaths won the People’s Choice ‘Midnight Madness’ Award at TIFF, and from the reaction of those at the public matinée I attended last Saturday, it’s not surprising that it did; the full house was behind the film from the moment the voice-over commenced, clearly expecting something dark, stylish and entertaining from the director of In Bruges, which McDonagh and company deliver.