Movies within movies have always been a staple of Hollywood filmmaking. Seven Psychopaths, the new film by Martin McDonagh, pushes this idea to the extreme.
The story follows Marty (played by Colin Farrell), a writer who can’t seem to start his new script, Seven Psychopaths. His best friends Billy and Hans (played by Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs and then return them for the rewards. When they accidentally borrow a Shih Tzu that belongs to a crazed and viciously quirky mob boss (played by Woody Harrellson), everything becomes a little more psychotic.
While the plot of the movie is what pushes the film forward, it is not really about dog-napping and organized crime. It revels in the pleasures and responsibilities that come with that story. The movie tells tales within tales, not limited to a vengeful Quaker whose daughter was killed by a reformed murderer, which one could see as a movie unto itself.
Sometimes the characters get extremely close to breaking the fourth wall, the imaginary wall separating the audience from the film, contemplating their fate as if they know they’re in a thriller. In this film, normal movie tropes do not apply, and there were times when audible gasps were heard in the audience.
Farrell’s character is the anchor that contrasts the madness that surrounds him. He balances Rockwell’s enthusiastic love of chaos and Walken’s soulful turn as a man who has seen too much violence.
Despite its wonderful character dissections and beautifully done short stories, there are times where the movie falters. The characters have arguments about violence in movies which come off as vague. Some of the philosophic musings are too ambitious to be coherent.
When the plot takes a back seat and allows the characters to simply interact, it grabs the audience and makes them reflect about what kind of movie is important. The pinnacle of the movie comes when no violence is taking place and our three heroes simply write the screenplay in the desert. The calmness and simplicity brings out each character’s purest emotions, and their chemistry pushes the film to great heights.
While it might not have completely come through, Seven Psychopaths is one of the best recent movies for deep thought and a trail of blood.