Published on December 11th, 2012 | by Brogan Morris
Forget Seven Psychopaths – Django Unchained is just around the corner
It’s difficult to dislike Quentin Tarantino. Though critics have pounced on him from time to time in recent years, the two-fold argument often seems to be head-slappingly ludicrous; namely, that his later stuff doesn’t top his early work, and that he has just too much damn fun being himself. Accusations of being too film-literate, or simply a “cinema geek” have a faint whiff of blood-hungry critics clutching at straws to find a way of destroying one of Hollywood’s rare individuals.
Maybe Inglourious Basterds was an occasional mess, but it was an exhilarating one; as was Kill Bill back in 2004. And maybe Death Proof was an uncharacteristic mis-step, a 114-minute arse-ache that even Tarantino admits is prime balls, but how can you direct insults at films as great as Jackie Brown and Kill Bill simply for not being up to the standard of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, a directorial one-two unparalleled in modern times? Few have made more of an impact on the current cinematic landscape than Quentin Tarantino, and anyone who’s tried to copy his brand of pop culture-referencing dialogue, time-hopping storytelling and iconic characterisation have so often come up short. Tarantino, for whatever criticisms people level at him, is inimitable.
Martin McDonagh obviously never got that message. Because like a man who’s just arrived in a time machine from 1994, he’s gone and made a film so obviously indebted to Tarantino’s early crime sagas that QT may be able to make an infringement case hold up in court. The woefully self-indulgent story of a super-talented and beautiful writer (Colin Farrell) trying to write his latest gangster film, Seven Psychopaths feels like an incomplete, abandoned imitation of a Tarantino movie. It more accurately looks like something Tarantino stepped in, before he maliciously scraped it off his shoe for being so familiar.
Narratively, Seven Psychopaths is all over the place. As David Bowie cuts up pages of lyrics then tapes the shreds back together, Seven Psychopaths looks like the cinematic equivalent, except the result doesn’t possess the entertainment value of a Thin White Duke track. With sub-plots and meaningless character arcs colliding into one another like incompatible atoms, it seems like Martin McDonagh has made a film out of a rambling early production meeting then charged us all to see it. Which in short means you won’t find coherence here, or any sort of satisfying storyline, unless Colin Farrell traipsing across a cardboard LA (along with a confused Christopher Walken and a decidedly demented-looking Sam Rockwell) brings you satisfaction. I found myself pretending I was watching Pulp Fiction in my head, something this film obviously wants to be. Except it can’t be, because its writer/director can’t do character, can’t do plot, and thinks adding a few “fuck”s at random automatically makes his dialogue more interesting.
It’s a prime time to release something like Seven Psychopaths, given that Django Unchained – the new movie by the actual Quentin Tarantino – comes out in January. The Western (or ‘Southern’) is Tarantino’s slavery-tinted homage to the blaxploitation and Spaghetti Western genres, and is currently lighting up the switchboard at critic central. US reviewers have been showering it with tweet-based praise after some early screenings, while there’s speculation that Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio (who’s finally starting to show his age as a debonair plantation owner, after 15 years of looking exactly the same) could all reap Oscars for their turns. While a review embargo is in place right now, early word promises Django Unchained will offer a typically Tarantino-esque ballet of cool wordplay and extreme violence.
Until The Hobbit performs a military takeover of cinemas in just under a week’s time, there really isn’t much of interest showing right now – other than great stuff you’ve already seen (Skyfall, Silver Linings Playbook), unmitigated rubbish (Nativity 2, Breaking Dawn) and stuff with Jeremy Irvine in it (Great Expectations), and you wouldn’t want to watch that – so the temptation to see Seven Psychopaths is understandable. Aside from the fact that Seven Psychopaths has an audience-drawing cast, Tarantino still brings cinema-goers excitement 20 years after his debut, so it makes sense that people will give something Tarantino-lite a go just to curb their appetites. Give it a month and wait for the real thing instead.