When "In Bruges" was released in 2008 it marked the emergence of Martin McDonagh, a filmmaker that was able to combine a dark crime drama with a real sense for the off-beat and provide unabashed politically incorrect humour. I wasn't exactly convinced in it's entirety but it offered something fresh and exciting. The same could be said for McDonagh's second feature, only this time it's sense for the off-beat is way off course and it's elaborate crime yarn, lacks coherence.
Marty (Colin Farrell), has been working for while on a Hollywood screenplay called 'Seven Psychopaths' but he hasn't got past the first page and has developed a reliance on alcohol to see him through it. His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) is eager to help, so gives him anecdotes on real psychopaths that he's aware of. Some of which, include crazed gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson) who loves his little Shih-Tzu dog, Bonny. It's only when Billy and his dognapper friend Hans (Christopher Walken) decide to steal Bonny, that Marty finds himself in all sorts of trouble - and inspiration.
The film sets it's stall up well, as we are introduced to Martin, a struggling, Irish, alcoholic writer with absolutely no creative spark whatsoever. It's a self-referential premise that has been done before - most notably by the Coen brothers when they wrote "Barton Fink" as a result of writer's block in trying to finish "Miller's Crossing". Only, McDonagh is not a Coen, nor is he a Quentin Tarantino - who he obviously fancies himself as. Those filmmakers have made strong career's from combining crime and comedy but after this sophomore effort, McDonagh doesn't match those aforementioned auteur's of cinema. "In Bruges" was so well received that this film gathered a lot of anticipation and it even allowed McDonagh to assemble a very impressive cast. It had all the ingredients for being another darkly humorous endeavour. Dark it may be, but it's seriously lacking in the humour department. While I was watching this, I had the feeling that something was just around the corner but when that corner was turned, there was still a vacantness. The jokes were forced and most dialogue and scenes were shoehorned in such a way that it was forcing laughs rather than earning them.
On the positive side, it had plenty of style and the performances, for the most part, were great; Farrell, Harrelson and especially, Rockwell and Walken, all seem to be having fun. There's also fine support by Tom Waits but the belief that this ensemble have in the material is squandered as McDonagh has no idea what he's doing. The story-within-a-story concept is nothing original but if tackled properly, it can be a very fulfilling journey and Charlie Kaufman's "Adaptation" is a prime example of how it should be done. This, however, is an example of how it shouldn't.
This is a wasted opportunity to create something really good. It's a clever idea and it could be said that the movie is one big in-joke. Although I'm aware of this, it's still the very incoherent and lazily written crime yarn that it proclaims to be against.
It thinks it's smarter and funnier than it actually is and goes down as the biggest disappointment of the year.