Following his successful breakthrough comedy-drama, In Bruges (2008), writer-director Martin McDonagh is reunited with Irish bad-boy, Collin Farrell, for another crack at dark comedy.

Seven Psychopaths follows struggling Irish screenwriter, Marty (Farrell), who is experiencing every writer's nightmare – a severe case of writer's block. So far, he's only got the working title for his next film project worked out – Seven Psychopaths – but, the rest of the story isn’t so forthcoming. With nothing but a few measly ideas scribbled on scraps of paper, Marty's personal hell soon sees the writer sinking deeper and deeper into anxiety and alcoholism.

He finds encouragement in his best-bud Billy (Rockwell), who along with his partner-in-crime, Hans (Walken), makes his living in the dog-pinching business. Unfortunately, stealing dogs from their wealthy owners – and later returning them for the reward money – goes awry when Billy nabs a dog belonging to murderous gangster, Charlie (Harrelson).

Before long, the fictional story of Seven Psychopaths – the one Marty has been struggling to bring to life – becomes real and the careworn writer soon begins to live right in the middle of his own story.

Set in the seedy Hollywood hills, before moving on to the Californian desert, Seven Psychopaths is presented as a film about making a film, when in actual fact, it's a film about not making a film; the obstacles to success are not overcome and there is no triumphant final act bringing all of the elements together. Although the story's unusual premise offers a few rather amusing moments, there isn’t much else to hold onto.

Seven Psychopaths also feels a little too self-conscious and restrained. McDonagh – just like his central character – has some serious struggles of his own; a lot of the sequences feel forced and after a banging start, the film loses momentum and withers away as it gets lost in its own self-referential pseudo-philosophy.

The film furthers its suffering by not taking full advantage of its star-studded Hollywood cast. Cameos from Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton are completely wasted and Rockwell's verbal diarrhoea is a little too much to take. On a positive note, Farrell has no problem in nailing the good-for-nothing drunk, while Harrelson and Walken deliver like the pros they are.

On the whole, Seven Psychopaths is meta-gangster film wannabe – if even that. Over-written and a little too aware of itself, the film never develops into anything more than an occasionally amusing mishmash. What starts of as an intricate narrative descends into absurdity very quickly.