Martin McDonagh and Colin Farrell made comedy gold in 2008 with the release of In Bruges which pushed the boundaries of the black comedy sub-genre, challenging new tones and perspectives of how to make a film humorous while dealing with disturbingly dark story-lines such as the accidental murder of a child.
With their second collaboration in McDonagh’s highly anticipated second feature film, you can’t help but feel the ingenious spark of In Bruges is not only lacking, but completely missing. In Seven Psychopaths, Farrell plays a screenwriter trying to overcome his writers-block, while becoming tangled in his friends criminal affairs that includes the intentional kidnap of residents dogs around Los Angeles, only to receive a reward sum of money when they returned. However, when a gangster loses his beloved Shih Tzu, hell breaks loose as he vows to find and kill whoever’s responsible.
The problem with Seven Psychopaths is down to the marketing: the film is promoted as a non-stop comedy film about a group of dog-nappers in L.A, with an all star cast that spans from Hollywood A-Lister Colin Farrell to recent Bond girl Olga Kurylenko. Truth is, Seven Psychopaths isn’t actually that comedic, it’s similar in a way to In Bruges with people dealing with depression, but the comedy elements are almost eradicated from the entire film. Plus, most of the headlining cast members appear for only one or two scenes (including Kurylenko and American star Abbie Cornish).
Although McDonagh’s humour isn’t so much featured, his talents for writing great characters with depth still shine through. The star of this film is in fact Woody Harrelson who plays gangster Charlie, who will do whatever it takes to get his dog back safe and sound. However, watching a character we empathise with murder innocent people is quite hard to digest: McDonagh would possibly argue this is the way he intended the character to be but it didn’t pull off as well as he has done in the past.
On the whole the film felt flat: the narrative stops and starts and paces as we slowly work our way to an anti-climatic ending that resembles too much of a wild Tarantino ending (the influences from Tarantino are ripe throughout this film) and the main thing that lacks throughout is the emotional connection between the characters and the audience, something McDonagh did so well with In Bruges. The surprise twist isn’t necessary and most of the cast members are wasted on one or two short scenes that are forgettable. My advice, go back to the drawing room McDonagh and spend time developing another contemporary classic that can at least be on a par with In Bruges.