AS AN ENTITLED white guy, the Bechdel Test is a fairly effective way for me to see exactly how myopic the media I consume is. So much of everything fails the test, which is weird, because its three requirements shouldn't be hard: that a film have at least two women characters, that they talk to each other, and that they talk to each other about something other than a man. And yet.
But while the Bechdel Test is depressingly useful in terms of seeing how most films deal with gender (and, uh, reality) it's less reliable as an indicator of quality. Sometimes, really great stuff fails the Bechdel Test. Which—segue!—brings us to Seven Psychopaths, a film that gleefully, phenomenally fails the Bechdel Test. And I loved the hell out of it. That might say something about me.
It's not that the dark, hilarious Seven Psychopaths is unaware of its workings: At one point, the probably insane Billy (Sam Rockwell, awesome) happily points out to his alcoholic screenwriter pal Marty (Colin Farrell) how ill treated women are in film—they're treated worse, Billy notes, than dogs. Billy's observation includes Seven Psychopaths, but writer/director Martin McDonagh isn't that concerned about it, at least not here: Here, he just wants to tell an increasingly feverish story about Marty. And Billy. And a charming, doddering dog thief (charming, doddering Christopher Walken), and an Amish sociopath (Harry Dean Stanton), and an exceedingly troubled man with a bunny (Tom Waits), and a trigger-happy crime boss (Woody Harrelson). Things get a bit meta, and they get impressively bloody, and there might be one or two women in it? Briefly? There is definitely a dog in it.
Before his first feature-length film, 2008's In Bruges, McDonagh was already one of the best playwrights alive, and his roots still show: Even given a bigger canvas, most of McDonagh's scenes, and certainly his best ones, center on people standing still and talking. That might be a problem if McDonagh's dialogue wasn't so whiplash fast, or if his characters were any less charming and/or terrifying. But all of McDonagh's strengths are on display in Seven Psychopaths, and it's gorgeous to look at, thanks to cinematographer Ben Davis, and it clips along with ease, thanks to McDonagh and editor Lisa Gunning. It isn't a movie for everybody, but it's well aware of that fact, and it's still a hell of a good time. Even if its most notable female character happens to be a Shih Tzu.