Simply put, Seven Psychopaths is about a dog-kidnapping scheme going wrong. Yes, that’s the plot, but not really what the film is about. It’s actually about 'story' or more specifically the act of storytelling.
In this film, stories are layered upon one another, intersecting, running parallel to each other, as allegories of each other, spoken stories around a campfire, written stories, discussions of screenplay conventions, monologues, dissections of proverbs, fantasy sequences… this list goes on.
The essence of Seven Psychopaths, and in turn what makes it so watchable, is that of storytelling. Everyone loves to hear a good story. In its most basic form, that’s why people watch movies, bury themselves into books, sit for hours in front of a TV or have a long natter when exchanging gossip with a friend over a drink. Everyone loves a good story, especially ones that are told well.
And this film is full of them. Some make you laugh, cry or cringe, some finish in a beautiful and poetic manner, others with an almost shocking punch line, some even just fizzle out and remain seemingly unresolved.
It may seem like this film is being made out to be an anthology or portmanteau film but it’s not. Yes, the dog-napping story is really just a bare bones overarching plot device to hang all these stories on, but the real genius of the film lies when the stories start to come together, collide and combine.
Not only do we experience this for ourselves whilst watching the film, but so do the characters within it. What happens when you acquisition a story you've heard to retell it to others for your own gain? What if you unwittingly happen to tell that story back to the original protagonist? What if you take someone’s story and change it into something entirely different and unexpected, one that mirror’s your own situation? Or are aware of screenwriting conventions and openly discuss them whilst simultaneously falling foul to them anyway?
Some of the stories eerily mirror each other - could the two black lovers somehow be the same character or not? Or story elements that break out into the real world: is Colin Farrell's character autobiographical? As Walken's character admits when listening to one of the films many stories, "I like it... It's got layers...", we are similarly challenged to pick apart the details whilst admiring it's intricacy and thematic richness.
I don't really want to go into specific details as I run the risk of spoiling the film’s numerous surprises, but fans of layered storytelling, meta fiction and violent black comedy will love this film. Whilst lacking the heart of director Martin McDonagh’s seminal debut In Bruge, the snappy dialogue, awesome performances from Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken and a few genuine ‘wtf?!’ moments make this an almost instant classic. The trailer really doesn't do this film justice – just go watch it.
One of the best films of this year.
6th June 2013