Title: Seven Psycopaths
Director: Martin McDonagh (‘In Bruges’)
Starring: Colin farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish and Woody Harrelson
Unsympathetic crime bosses who are determined to get whatever they want, at the expense of the lives of the people around them, is one of the main characteristics of crime films. But when a screenwriter humanely looks at the all of the characters’ struggles between wanting to do something spiritual, as well as dark and deranged, the result is a comedic satire of modern day criminals. The new crime comedy ‘Seven Psychopaths’ takes a humorous look at what leads people to become a psychopathic criminal, and the constant struggle their friends take to help them.
‘Seven Psychopaths’ follows Los Angeles screenwriter Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell), who’s past his deadline on his latest script and is at the end of his girlfriend Kaya’s (Abbie Cornish) patience. His efforts to fix his professional and personal lives are constantly disrupted by his best friend, struggling actor Billy (Sam Rockwell). With the Jack of Diamonds killer murdering thugs across the city in an effort to clean up the city, Billy recommends Marty look to him for inspiration for the first psychopath in his script, also titled ‘Seven Psychopaths.’
But Billy’s well-intentioned attempts to help Marty soon spiral into a whirlwind of crime. Billy and his dognapping business partner Hans (Christopher Walken) are faced with trouble when they inadvertently take Bonnie, the shih tzu belonging to gangster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson). Obsessed with his dog, Charlie vows to find and kill whoever stole Bonnie. Billy, Hans and Marty suddenly find themselves forced to hide from Charlie and his men, in order to protect their own lives, but Bonnie’s as well.
While Billy thinks Marty is one of the best screenwriters of his generation, the scribe admirably has differing viewpoints from his friend on how crime scripts should be evolving. Marty, who has become known for writing violent films, insists that he wants to include a moral in his new film, showing crime movies can be spiritual and focus on love and peace, while also being dark and deranged. Through Marty’s moral struggles on which direction to take his script, ‘Seven Psychopath’s writer and director, Martin McDonagh, truthfully and comically showed the contradictory perspectives many crime action films are experiencing today.
Marty continuously tells Billy that his characters should be well-developed and have clear motives in their actions, which should be the element specifically driving the plot. McDonagh echoes Marty’s sentiments of featuring strong-willed characters in his script, which the actors amusingly and emotionally showed throughout the film. Farrell, for example, amusingly plays Marty as artificially being lazy and unmotivated while writing his script and working on ‘Seven Psychopaths.’ But Marty truly wishes to create a dialogue and character-driven film that tones down the violence, but lacks the confidence to create such a story.
Marty also acts nonchalant about his relationships and how his actions affect Billy and Kaya. He expresses his annoyance with Billy’s dognapping, which ultimately attracts the attention of Charlie and brings on his need for revenge. But Marty continues to help Billy and Hans in their scheme, as he truly wishes to help his friend during his time of need. The two have an intriguing co-dependency and loyalty to each other; while they often do things to anger each other, they balance their relationship by always forgiving each other.
Marty also spends a majority of the film trying to apologize to Kaya after he drunkenly embarrassed her in front of her friends. He truly feels the same love for her that he wishes to incorporate into his characters, but is unsure how to make it up to her and convince her he was wrong. While Kaya’s physical presence in the film is small, her influence over Billy realistically influences many of his decisions to turn his life around. She’s tired of his drinking, laziness and friendship with Billy, so she influences him to undergo a major change to get his life on track. Marty’s determined to write an emotional, thought-provoking action film while also getting Billy to become more conscious of his psychopathic behavior.
Since the characters and their emotions and motivations were so mulch-faceted, the visual cues McDonagh used throughout ‘Seven Psychopaths’ were also extremely helpful in telling their stories. Costume designer Karen Patch expertly created intriguing clothing for each character to show and explain their personal history. Patch drew on each of the character’s lives for inspiration to further show their disturbed, distinctive personalities. Billy for example, is a charming liar who is also childlike in the fact that he becomes astonished when people are upset with his behavior. So Path created suave jackets and shirts for Billy, while matching a child’s animal hat in several scenes. The surprising contradictions show his psychotic personality.
While Marty describes to his friends his different psychopaths for his script, who have different experiences from the 1940s to the present day worldwide, McDonagh gave each flashback a different look and feeling. Director of Photography Ben Davis used Panavision cameras to show the grittiness of the different psychopaths in Marty’s script. The flashbacks were smartly shot in monochromatic, to show the one-dimension of Marty’s characters, while contemporary L.A. was colorful and vibrant. The lively, bold representation of Marty’s world showed the complexity and diverse motivations of the psychopaths he knew.
Many crime films chronicle the dramatic, greedy motivations of gangsters who will stop at nothing to get what they want. ‘Seven Psychopaths’ certainly features ruthless gangsters, notably Charlie, who are self-serving and don’t care about anyone else, the crime comedy also creates humorous, humane and dangerous characters. McDonagh notably also created a compassionate character in Marty, who’s struggling with contradictory perspectives on his relationships and writing. The actors’ determination to improve their characters’ lives, mixed with the vibrant visual aspect of the film and the message that movies can feature complex characters and developed messages, created an honest, relatable film.
Written by: Karen Benardello