Martin McDonagh’s film making career has moved to Hollywood after the triumph of In Bruges (2008), which in its self followed the success of his Award winning short film Six Shooter (2004). In Bruges was a film where you could not help laughing out loud at some very brutal scenes made even funnier by the non stop banter between two hit men holed up in the Belgium town to await there next assignment after a contract killing goes horribly wrong. The 27 minute short Six Shooter is about a middle-aged male who encounters a strange young man, possible psychotic, during a homeward train journey following his wife’s death.
Made in Hollywood, but apparently founded by in the UK Seven Psychopaths (2012) is not your standard gangster shoot out movie, more a lesson on how not to write a film script! Blocked screenwriter and self confessed alcoholic Marty (Colin Farrell) is tasked with preparing a screenplay for a movie, the only thing he has at present is the title, ‘Seven Psychopaths’, written on the first page of his foolscap note pad. Marty, a peace loving man at heart, knows nothing about the aggressive people who commit violent acts without a shred of remorse. To this end Marty’s friend Billy, an out of work actor, played by Sam Rockwell who makes the most of McDonough quick fire script, agrees to help. Unbeknown to our Irish writer Billy is mixed up with a dognapping business run by Hans (Christopher Walken) a rather dapper gentleman whose wife is in hospital with suspected cancer. The ever-resourceful Billy places an advert in a newspaper asking for psycho’s to come forward if they have stories to tell, ideally giving Marty some background for his screenplay. From this advert we hear (and see) stories about some unlikely people like the Quaker, a brilliant cameo from Harry Dean Stanton, who is prepared to hunt a man, into hell if necessary, he believes raped and murdered his daughter: a Vietnamese monk who has swore revenge against America for the their mass murder of over 400 people at My Lai in 1968 and rabbit loving Zachariah and his partner Maggie (Tom Waits and Amanda Warren) who spent their younger days ‘going round the country killing people going round the country killing people’ i.e. serial killers of serial killers. Every thing seems to be going jolly well until Billy and Hans kidnap the wrong dog, a shih tzw called Bonny whose identity tag reads ‘Return to Charlie Costello or you will fucking die’ Costello is a psychopathic gangster whose love for his wee pooch borders on the unwholesome. As you would now expect things now go from bad to worse!
Tarantino is obviously an influence in a film that attempts to send it, and Hollywood genre pictures, up. The experienced English cinematographer Ben Davis makes a good job of photographing both the city of Los Angles and the wide-open spaces of California’s Joshua Tree National Park. The first part of the film is excellent and full of promise but it does lose its momentum the more the film goes on and as Robbie Collin said in the Daily Telegraph’s review ‘self-aware stupidity does not equal wit.’ In other words Martin McDonagh’s writing is not as clever as he thinks it is.