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'Seven Psychopaths'

A 2012 movie directed by Martin McDonagh

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A Kidnapped Dog and the Merits of Cinematic Shootouts

  • Oct 22, 2012
Star Rating:

That Seven Psychopaths is twisted, there can be no question. As to whether or not it’s successful, that’s open for debate. Here is a movie that’s narratively and atmospherically all over the map; in one fell swoop we’re given a crime thriller and a comedy, and in both instances, they involve a stolen dog, a developing screenplay, promises for screen credit, alcoholism, people getting shot and burned alive, two generations of serial killers, and wordy discussions about the merits of cinematic shootouts and the possibility of an afterlife. I cannot sit here and say that I know what the film is about. I can say that I never once found it boring. I can also say that select scenes and passages of dialogue are ... I was going to say funny, but given the innate unpleasantness of murder, I think amusingly clever would be a more accurate description.
Exactly who are the seven psychopaths? Contrary to what both the trailer and the poster tell us, the characters played by Colin Farrell, Abbie Cornish, and Olga Kurylenko aren’t among them. Farrell plays Marty Faranan, an Irish-born alcoholic screenwriter living in Los Angeles; Seven Psychopaths is the title of his latest script, which he’s struggling to finish. Cornish plays his girlfriend, Kaya, who’s essentially dropped from the story after breaking up with Marty over an insulting comment he made while under the influence at a party. As for Kurylenko, she plays the barely-seen girlfriend of a local crime boss named Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), so at best, one can say that she’s only dating a psychopath.

One of the psychopaths is a fictional character, which is to say he exists only within the pages of Marty’s screenplay. This would be a Vietnamese priest (Long Nguyen), who seeks revenge on the soldiers that killed his family during the My Lai Massacre. Another psychopath is essentially only a legend as retold by Marty’s best friend, an unemployed actor named Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell). According to the story, a Quaker seeking retribution for the murder of his daughter followed her killer, a reformed man, for eleven years until he was driven by madness to slit his own throat; he believed he would be sent to hell and set free from the Quaker, although he didn’t count on the fact that the Quaker would end up slitting his own throat at the same time. We see the first psychopath, a mask-wearing killer of mafia figures known as Jack O’Diamonds for his trademark of leaving a jack of diamonds playing card at the scene of his crimes. For a time, the seventh psychopath remains a mystery.
Although there is a sequence of events, I hesitate to say that the film has a plot. Billy, who’s also a part-time dog thief, kidnaps a Shih Tzu with the help of his partner in crime, Hans (Christopher Walken), a nonviolent man whose beloved wife is being treated for cancer. Little do both men know that the dog’s owner is Charlie, an emotional pet lover. Knowing Marty needs a little inspiration to get his screenplay finished, Billy ropes him into the escalating situation. Eventually, a man named Zachariah Rigby (Tom Waits), who carries around a pet rabbit, has entered the picture. He’s another psychopath; decades ago, he and his then-wife became serial killers of other serial killers (the moral implications of this aren’t discussed, perhaps wisely so). Now he’s responding to an ad placed in “Variety” by Billy on Marty’s behalf. Eventually, Marty, Billy, Hans, and Charlie’s dog will retreat to the desert, where the humans will discuss the direction of the Seven Psychopaths screenplay and argue over a climactic gunfight.

Although there is a bizarre logic to the pacing, the structure, and the eccentric performances, the plot in and of itself is maddeningly unclear about what the point is. That’s assuming, of course, that there even is a point, and I have my doubts about that; writer/director Martin McDonagh appears to be more interested in style than in substance, which is to say that the film looks good and has a lot of energy and wit but not much in the way of purpose. Not much that’s apparent to the audience, at least. This is in direct opposition to his previous film, In Bruges, which interwove an equally twisted crime caper with characters that were surprisingly complex and engaging. Seven Psychopaths approaches that level with the character of Hans, but it doesn’t quite reach it. His presence comes off largely as a convenient means to an end, an excuse for the inclusion of specific scenes and turns of events.
I haven’t said much about the film’s violence, which in select instances could arguably rival the gratuitousness of a particularly gory teen slasher film. I know intellectually that it’s in the spirit of fun and not meant to be analyzed, but emotionally, I find myself resisting. The film is so much more engaging when the focus is the dialogue, a strange but fascinating mixture of foul gangster talk and intellectual debate. Had there been greater insight into the characters, it probably would have had an even greater effect on me. As it is, Seven Psychopaths is difficult to process but impossible to ignore. It’s goofy and sadistic, it meanders, and it never comes to a satisfying conclusion, and yet you can’t tear your eyes away from it. Looking at it from that perspective alone, it’s quite an achievement.


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November 04, 2012
Looks crazy!
October 26, 2012
Man....ok, I am making time for this one.
More Seven Psychopaths reviews
review by . March 11, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
A Dog, A Writer and Seven Tales of Seven Psychopaths
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (who was responsible for the equally clever In Bruges), I’d like to think that “Seven Psychopaths” is something that had been cooked up by the writer/director as something McDonagh’s character Marty as “that is not the kind of movie I want to write anymore”. Well, I do have to say this film is different and yet familiar, it feels a little Quentin Tarantino-ish and yet it is not. The film feels fresh, gritty and there is …
review by . October 22, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Living and dying for the sake of Shih Tsu
Martin McDonagh, among the best known Irish directors previously won an Oscar for the short movie Six shooter A Collection of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films although he is perhaps best known for the acclaimed In Brugesalso starring Colin Farrell, a dark comedy with tragic overtones about two hitmen on the run.      I first heard of this movie last year when I saw the movie The Guard directed by his brother Michael John. A trademark of the McDonaghs is dark humor mixed …
review by . October 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'Seven Psychopaths', a Shih Tzu, & a writer with writer's block equal a brilliant, twisted,comedy
          What does one little Shih Tzu named BONNY, Seven Psychopaths and one screenwriter suffering from writer's block have in common?      Everything...At least in my favorite film of 2012 so far...         Screenwriter, Marty Faranan (Colin Farrel) is way past his deadline on his latest screenplay. If that's not enough to cause the poor dude major stress, his passive-aggressive girlfriend, Kaya …
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Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Movies, Comedy, Romance, Dark Comedy, Violence, Movie Review, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, Playwright, Sam Rockwell, Dognappers, Martin Mcdounaugh, Seven Psychopaths, Abbie Cornish


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