Awards Profile: Seven Psychopaths

Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Written By: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Olga Kurylenko, Gabourey Sidibe, Kevin Corrigan, Tom Waits, Zeljko Ivanek

Synopsis (Courtesy of IMDB): A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

Why It Could Succeed:
A re-teaming of Colin Farrell and Martin McDonagh is enough to make any fan of their collaboration in In Bruges excited. That dark comedy crime film snuck up on an unsuspecting public, with humor aplenty, and terrific performances by Colin Farrell and co-star Brendan Gleeson. The film managed to land Farrell his largest accolade yet: a Golden Globe win for that year, surprising everyone in the process, but pleasantly so. Colin was deserving, as was In Bruges’ Oscar nomination for “Best Original Screenplay.” It goes without saying that McDonagh has managed to make a name for himself in Hollywood. He’s able to cross the Atlantic with biting British wit, and have his work be fully embraced at port instead of the usual fare of American confusion and ignorance towards British comedy. British dramas tend to do superbly well in the states, but comedy is often a misfire with an American audience. Thankfully, Martin McDonagh’s writing and directorial abilities rises him above such tumultuous waters.

Does this cast have you excited or what?

Seven Psychopaths has a lot going for it. The film’s hero is a screenwriter, which is practically a gimme in Hollywood when it comes to drawing in the attention of the Academy and all the guilds, especially the Writers Guild of America. There is nothing quite like taking the stereotypically soft-spoken, often weak and timid screenwriter and turning him into a bad-ass before our very eyes. The film seems to be juggling quite a number of themes, drawing inspiration from many films and filmmakers in the process. The title right away makes a play on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, one of the greatest films ever to hit the screen. We expect gore and violence, we expect an eclectic mix of personalities amongst these seven, and we certainly expect a rip-roaring good time. To me, this film is just a mix of Kaufman’s Adaptation meets Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs with some Seven Samurai homages that serve as seasoning. Yep, I’m excited.

The cast list is also pretty incredible. Woody Harrelson and Colin Farrell, two actors who are some of the best in the business at balancing drama and comedy, are so perfectly cast for McDonagh’s work and this film’s premise. Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell can always be counted on to produce fine work, but it’s Gabourey Sidibe and Abbie Cornish who are the wild cards for me. Their role in this film remains mysterious, but I believe that’s part of the intrigue. They seem to be randomly cast in this McDonagh flick, but that just makes me all the more excited to see what they have to offer this black comedy.

Why It Could Fail:
While last year’s similarly toned black comedy, The Guard, managed to reap near-universal acclaim from the nation’s critics, I wouldn’t call it the runaway hit that would make waves at Oscar. It’s a tad ironic that The Guard was directed by Martin McDonagh’s brother, John Michael McDonagh, but didn’t manage to have the same cult following as In Bruges. The Guard has its flaws, but it’s a well made film in the genre. However, it didn’t really get gritty and action-packed until the very end. I worry that if Martin McDonagh approaches his narrative in the same way his brother did with The Guard, people won’t be as excited by the film, and the word-of-mouth aftermath will cease to exist. Audiences will be expecting plenty of great action sequences, personalities that light up the screen every time they are in frame, and a plot that doesn’t overreach or try to outsmart its audience. While I don’t ask that McDonagh sacrifice his auteur stature for mindless pulp entertainment, I do hope Seven Psychopaths can appeal to the masses. I’m just fearful that only a select group of moviegoers will enjoy this film, and they may not be in the Academy’s camp.

I’m also concerned about the acting in the film. I’m not sure if everyone is aware, but Mickey Rourke was originally intended to play Woody Harrelson’s role and then suddenly walked away from the project after feuding with McDonagh. Now I realize an actor like Mickey Rourke may not be a casual stroll in the park, but does McDonagh’s inability to control Rourke and win him over with his project a sign of bad things to come? Colin Farrell I know will be fantastic, but Sidibie, Cornish, and even Harrelson are questionable when it comes to delivering. It seems like McDonagh’s comedy is so precise that if you fluke a punchline, the whole narrative is instantly brought down. This is McDonagh’s first time working with a full American cast, and they may not be able to get a firm grasp on McDonagh’s screenplay. If the actors don’t deliver, this film will flop and won’t receive any attention from Oscar — I can assure you of that.

Will Harrelson land his third Oscar nomination?

Awards Speculation:
After his Golden Globe win for In Bruges, Farrell will always be seen as an awards contender when he teams up with McDonagh. Usually actors in black comedies rarely snag a nod if they are submitted as the lead — supporting roles more often nab the nomination — but I’ll never underestimate Colin Farrell. He’s one of the few actors who has never been nominated for an Academy Award who deserves to, and it’s high time he gets his chance at Oscar glory. I’m not certain it will happen this year, but I won’t discount him as a legitimate possibility.

As for the rest of the awards potential Seven Psychopaths has to offer, “Best Original Screenplay” seems like the surest bet after McDonagh’s screenplay nomination for In Bruges. The Academy obviously loves the quirky nature of McDonagh’s writing, and if the actors sell McDonagh’s script better than a used car salesman, you can bet this will be a serious contender come Oscar time next year. Woody Harrelson also has a strong chance at claiming a “Best Supporting Actor” nod, perhaps even more so than Colin since supporting roles in comedies usually receive more accolades as previously mentioned. With a string of recent performances that have been well-received like Rampart and The Hunger Games, Woody is certainly on the Academy’s radar. Usually when an actor has produced a consistent quality of work throughout the last year or two, the Academy tends to award such excellence with a nomination somewhere along the way. It happened last year with Jessica Chastain, and it has happened many times before with a variety of actors. This could be Harrelson’s third nomination following The People Vs. Larry Flynt and The Messenger. I would love to believe there’s room for McDonagh in the director’s nomination circle, but there are just far too many high-profile directors making some of the most buzzed-about films this awards season. I seriously do not see McDonagh making the cut. Because the list of “Best Picture” contenders has been expanded over the years, the film could land a “Best Picture” nod if it receives universal acclaim and manages to garner in some worthy box office success.

Seven Psychopaths is to be released on November 2nd, 2012. The film is being produced by Blueprint Pictures and HanWay Films, and distributed by CBS Films (U.S.) and Momentum Pictures (U.K.).

Oscar Potential:
Best Picture
Best Original Screenplay — Martin McDonagh
Best Actor — Colin Farrell
Best Supporting Actor — Woody Harrelson
Best Film Editing
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing