This is where I get REALLY pissed off with Netflix for the first time. When I was compiling the list towards the end of last month, I spotted that The Seventh Seal was available. Now, the only Bergman I’d ever seen before was Wild Strawberries (which I’d enjoyed, in my nihilistic student mindset of the early 2000s), so I thought this was a good opportunity to revive a sense of existential crisis. When I finally came to watching it, the film was unavailable. Disappeared into the ether, collapsed by the weight of its metaphysical mass.
So I took the lazy way out and selected a film I’d seen at the cinema last month.
I loved Martin McDonagh’s first film, In Bruges (2008). It was one of those films that crept up on you, then assaulted you with its profanity-spewing ingenuity. As well as being a cracking story, it appealed to the geek in me with its in-jokes and references. I laughed out loud when Brendan Gleeson registered at the hotel with the false names of Cranham and Blakely. Kenneth Cranham and Colin Blakely being, of course, the actors who starred as two hitmen in a BBC version of Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter in the 1980s, the play on which In Bruges is (loosely) based.
I tell you, I’m GREAT at parties.
So I was looking forward to his follow-up, Seven Psychopaths, billed as an oddball comedy about a struggling screenwriter inadvertently venturing into the Los Angeles criminal underworld. Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed. The opening scene with two hitmen discussing various trivialities is so achingly Tarantino I was convinced it was a film-within-a-film. It wasn’t. Just a contrived, laboured set-up between two characters with no further relevance to the story whatsoever.
It’s clever and funny in places, but never quite adds up to a coherent whole. Colin Farrell plays one of those Hollywood screenwriters who still uses a typewriter and lives in an apartment that’s either owned by his girlfriend or paid for through drug money. Sam Rockwell is his manic best friend who pretty much drives the whole narrative forward, even re-writing the ending in a glob of indulgent, self-referential smugness. The throwaway allusions of In Bruges are replaced by a knowingness that is not only painful, but is also embedded in the structure of the film. A writer has an idea for a film about psychopaths, but the story becomes submerged, and eventually overtaken, by real-life events.
The saving grace is Christopher Walken as Hans, a pacifist psychopath with a love for dogs and an appreciation for natty cravats. His performance is mesmerizing and makes me want to dig out and watch every single film he’s appeared in, just to get a fix of his dead-eyed stillness.
In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with this scene from Annie Hall.