Every once in a while a movie comes along that’s so criminally overlooked, you just want to scream from the rooftops for everyone to go see it. I saw Seven Psychopaths last September simply because I had a two-for-one admission coupon. It turned out to be one of the best times I had in a movie theater all year. I’m not sure why this unpredictable, outrageously funny, savagely violent, and unexpectedly moving film didn’t find an audience, but I hope that will change with its Blu-ray release. Academy Award-winning writer-director Martin McDonagh’s second feature film (after 2008’s In Bruges) is an audacious meditation on the creative process itself.
Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter hampered by a bad case of writer’s block. He has a title, “Seven Psychopaths” (yes, this is a meta-movie to the max), and that’s about it. He’s trying to come up with the seven crazies to populate his story, but desperately wants to avoid well-worn clichés. His friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) has a few novel ideas, but Marty doesn’t take him all that seriously as a potential writing partner. Without consulting Marty first, Billy takes out an ad in the paper calling for interesting psychos to offer up their personal stories for consideration in the screenplay. Initially angered, Marty realizes the strategy just might work after Zachariah Rigby (Tom Waits) answers the ad and lays a suitably crazy but surprisingly coherent story on him.
Meanwhile, Billy runs a dognapping business with his partner Hans Kieslowski (Christopher Walken). They covertly snatch unsuspecting dog walkers’ pooches and hold them until reward notices are posted. Hans’ uses the money to help his wife Myra (Linda Bright Clay) with her on-going cancer treatment. They inadvertently nab a Shih Tzu from the wrong guy, a crime boss named Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson). Elaborating on how all these characters interact with each other would rob the film of its surprises. McDonagh has great fun playing with the conventions of storytelling, essentially depicting Marty as experiencing much of what becomes his screenplay as the plot unfolds. There are several vignettes woven into the overall narrative that are strong enough to stand on their own as short films.