Colin Farrell’s eyebrows are a treasure, like two thick caterpillars gifted with movement. They’re a comic highlight of three writer-director films: Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges (genius) and Seven Psychopaths (very funny, less thoroughly gripping); and London Boulevard, which manages to be a boring crime flick written and directed by William Monahan, who won the Oscar for writing The Departed. London Boulevard is a weird failure - beautifully shot and filmed, and with sparky dialogue, but there’s no core, no journey, not much in the way of stakes, just observations, and it means that you don’t care about the characters. I turned off the film 2/3rds of the way through, even though it felt like a cool movie experience with a great soundtrack (Anna Friel is one of the best parts of the movie, but her part is small).
But if William Monahan and Martin McDonagh got together to make a film, it’d probably be pretty great. I think they could balance each other out. It’s weird, though, and this more succeeds in film as of late - if you’re a writer director type looking to make a splash in a post-Tarantino world, everything is very “voice-y” and all the characters kind of talk with the writer’s brilliance. Which makes things fun but it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to good storytelling, in some ways, since there’s not as much balance. (It’s where good actors - I don’t know, like the cast of Juno, make Diablo Cody’s work, for example, sound like a world and not a monologue.) But it means that people know who you are, that you have a writer-“brand,” and maybe that’s more important.
In this week’s New York Times Magazine, Martin McDonagh makes a Billly Wilder reference, which is the right one for him. It’s why his work on film, so far, has a bit more to say, even if the plots sound like bad post-Tarantino ripoffs from 1995. What I’m going to remember about Seven Psychopaths is that great riff on “an eye for an eye,” and the creeping desert - but, you know, even if you’re doing a fun meta sausage-fest, acknowledging that all the women are treated abominably and are thin types does not absolve you of your lack of effort. What I love about In Bruges is that, despite all the “two hitmen hiding out” trappings and the jokes, it’s got elegant movement - it’s a story about a guy who wants to die deciding that he wants to live. That’s why it has impact.
(PS. Martin McDonagh is super hot, in my opinion, and I remember doing an interview with Zoe Kazan where I think I swooned, isn’t he beautiful? or something silly like that and she just looked so disgusted. There went my composure!)