Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter in LA, suffering from writer’s block and a fondness for the bottle. To help kickstart Marty’s big idea for a new script (about seven psychopaths), his friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) places an advertisement in a local paper, requesting input from any psychopaths inclined to cooperate.
Meanwhile, Billy’s dog-napping business goes off the rails when he and born-again Christian partner Hans (Christopher Walken) inadvertently abduct a Shih Tzu, the apple in the manic eye of a particularly nasty piece of work, crime boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson).
Director Martin McDonagh (of In Bruges) is not shy about invoking precedents. From the pre-slaughter banter of Pulp Fiction to spaghetti western shootouts and a stockpile of corpses regularly replenished along with Marty’s drinks, there’s a lot of meta-referential stuff going on. Moreover, with Harrelson, Walken and Rockwell re-incarnating degrees of crazy from their own movie histories, the film treads a thin line between art-house and a cinematic version of Where’s Waldo?
It succeeds, however, by harnessing the déjà vu to a purpose: the jumbling and resetting of tropes to fashion a great comedic statement on the extreme interplay of life and art, marred only slightly by stuttering pace changes. With a brilliant Tom Waits upping the ante as a serial killer of serial killers, you owe it to yourself to go.
Seven Psychopaths | Directed by Martin McDonagh (UK 2012) with Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits. Starts December 6