Martin McDonagh, director of In Bruges, finds himself once again paired with Colin Farrell in black comedy, Seven Psychopaths. Joined by a stellar ensemble cast that features Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell amongst a whole host of great character actors, McDonagh’s familiar tone of blending the absurd with a tense game of cat and mouse is definitely at work here. 

Seven Psychopaths has a meta feel about it, the plot revolving around the adventures of Colin Farrell’s alcoholic screenwriter as he tries to write his titular screenplay. In supporting roles, Walken and Rockwell play a duo of con men that kidnap dogs, later returning them for the ransom. Walken instantly makes a connection as a quirky, loveable parody of himself and impressed me no end. I had been apprehensive after watching the trailer, fearing that the best lines might have been prematurely revealed – but there were several to spare.

However, it might seem unfair to highlight Walken’s performance and not give credit to Farrell and Rockwell, all three actors giving such different performances but at such a high level. Rockwell plays the part of the fool perfectly, allowing for clarity and lucidity while still maintaining his slightly crazy edge. Farrell shines in a limited spotlight, taking a similar approach to his characterisation of Ray in In Bruges, playing the confused flawed protagonist brilliantly.

If you go into the cinema expecting a 110 minute bloodbath, think again. Seven Psychopaths definitely gives you the blood, and the splatter. But don’t be fooled by the title, McDonagh’s latest endeavour is much more about the absurdity of the psychotic mind, choosing not to explore these ‘psychopaths’ in a conventional manner, but instead in the way in which a man who has killed several people could get overly attached to a dog or a bunny. Seven Psychopaths has that kind of duality.

Nevertheless, Seven Psychopaths is far from perfect. As brilliant and individually enticing as each performance is, we’re never really made to care that much about any of its characters. As likeable as these “Psychopaths” are, the depth to each character is left un-dug. Seven Psychopaths contains many unexplored opportunities to uncover what drives its cast of characters, but maybe this brief insight is all McDonagh wanted to show us, leaving us to make our own interpretations.

The quirkiness running throughout, mostly from Rockwell’s fool or Woody Harrelson’s erratic gangster or Walken’s pacifist, is to McDonagh’s credit, the highlight of Seven Psychopaths. The zany script coupled with this stellar cast allows for comedic twists and turns to be done in a seemingly natural way, where you still find yourself laughing or smiling at the escapades on screen even in the absence of a clearly scripted punch line.

Xavier Ribero

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