For those who’ve read my past reviews, you know I have my usual format for them. But for Martin McDonagh’s terrific Seven Psychopaths, I thought I’d try something a little different. To briefly sum up the story, a gangster’s dog is kidnapped and he goes to extreme lengths in his attempts to get it back. Just to be clear, there’s so much more to the story than that simple summarization (in case you haven’t seen the film yet, to which I would say stop reading and go see it).
I was intrigued by the aspect of Marty (Colin Farrell) trying to write his next screenplay. It’s not clearly established why he needs to write it, but as I was watching the film I asked myself, “Does it matter?” The screenplay served as a kind of metaphor for Marty’s life at that point. When we meet him, all we find out about the screenplay is that it’s about psychopaths. He’s got some ideas for segments that are jumbled; not quite cohesive. Marty’s life isn’t going so well at this point either. He’s got a passive aggressive girlfriend who’s pissed off about his alcoholism but doesn’t confront him (or do anything constructive) about it, which helps to feed his denials of being an alcoholic.
As the story progresses, Marty’s screenplay starts to flesh out more and more while his life takes a turn in an unexpected direction when his friends Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken) inadvertently involve him in the dog-napping of a dog that belongs to a gangster (Woody Harrelson) who’s also a psychopath. Marty decides that he wants his script to end with a life-affirming message but doesn’t know how to get the script to that point. When he’s finally dumped by his girlfriend after an off-screen drunken tirade, Marty decides to give up drinking and collaborate with Billy and Hans on the screenplay while they go on the run.
Without giving away too much (to those who haven’t seen the film yet), I’ll just say that both Marty and the screenplay reach the end of their journeys. The screenplay gets finished and made, and Marty has grown as an individual (clearly evident when he gets an unexpected phone call during the end credits: instead of quivering like a man-child as he might have done at the beginning, we get a matured Marty who isn’t afraid of confrontation, or perhaps even death).
Seven Psychopaths tells the stories of several characters (some terrific and funny ones for sure), but while the entire cast shines (even the cameos), this film is ultimately Marty’s story. Perhaps that was the point of him needing to write the screenplay: a subconscious desire to get his life on track using the screenplay to guide him along the right path (no matter what weird or crazy direction that path led him on).