Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, who previously gave us In Bruges, which I really love. Colin Farrell stars in this film as well, this time as alcoholic writer Marty who has an idea for a screenplay, but can't seem to get it on paper. He wants it to be about seven psychopaths, but wants it to be a peace and life-affirming film. Problem being, he can't come up with any psychopaths. The good news is, his best friend is aspiring actor Billy (played by Sam Rockwell), who earns a living working for Hans (Christopher Walken) in a business where they kidnap people's dogs, then accept the reward money for finding the "lost" dog. Billy has some good ideas for some psychopaths, but he also has some bad ideas, like abducting the dog of the boyfriend of the woman he's sleeping with. As it turns out, said dog owner (played by Woody Harrelson), is a bit of a psychopath himself. So things rapidly spiral out of control for Marty, as his life becomes at least some version of the film he wanted to write.

I'm not sure any of the seven (really six) psychopaths are actually psychopaths. I thought that was marked by an inability to feel empathy. Which doesn't really seem to be the case. These folks are selfish to varying degrees, and are willing to kill, but they don't seem entirely indifferent to everyone's suffering. Maybe that's part of the point. There's this exchange at the end:

Marty: Friends don't make their friends die, Hans.
Hans: Psychopathic friends do. You're the one thought psychopaths were so interesting, but they're kind of tiresome after awhile, don't you think?

Marty had actually come up with one psychopath on his own, a Vietnamese fellow whose family was killed at the My Lai Massacre and was out to get all the American soldiers present, but couldn't figure out how to incorporate his idea for peace and love into that story (though Hans had an interesting idea). Marty had claimed he wanted the guy to be a Buddhist of sorts, because he was tired of all these gun-toting, kill lots of people psychos you saw in movies. Except that's sort of what he finds himself surrounded with. So I don't know if its supposed to be a comment on his misunderstanding of what psychopathy is, or a point that just because someone kills a lot of people, it doesn't mean they can't have peace and love in their hearts. That he's viewing things through too much of a dichotomy, if you do X, you can't feel Y. But all these "psychos" keep proving that's wrong.

There's something sort of similar where Hans points out that Marty writes female characters poorly, when he writes them at all, and that's reflected in the film itself. There aren't a lot of women in the movie, and they don't get much to do or say, we never really see what they think of what's going on. Outside of Myra, and even she exits the story fairly early. The problem there is that while I think the movie sort of takes apart Marty's misconceptions on psychos, it doesn't really do so for women. Hans tries to revise it a bit, but I'm not sure how well it works. That's something that bears further consideration.

I need to watch it again, clearly. And I'll certainly do that at some point, because I really enjoyed it. I'm not sure it's as funny as In Bruges, and the humor has a different tone. Maybe a little darker, little less absurd in some ways. I still like it a lot, though, and if you liked In Bruges and haven't seen Seven Psychopaths yet, you should definitely watch it.

No comments: