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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.88%
Worth A Look47.06%
Average: 5.88%
Pretty Bad: 35.29%
Total Crap: 5.88%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Seven Psychopaths
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Seven Psychopaths (At Least) In Search Of A Point. . ."
2 stars

If nothing else, the black comedy "Seven Psychopaths" certainly deserves credit for truth in advertising for presenting a movie featuring seven psychopaths. In fact, I think that may be a lowball figure as virtually everyone who wanders onto the screen for more than a few moments seems to be at least somewhat off their rocker--even the little Shih Tzu that plays a key role in the proceedings seems to be a bit odd as well (or perhaps that could just be the fact that it is a Shih Tzu in the first place). The trouble is that the screenplay expends so much time and energy introducing its wide array of wackos and conceiving of newer and gorier ways for them to messily dispatch each other that it fails to figure out a proper framework in which to put them. This is one of those films where you come away from it thinking that it either contains way too much plot for its own good or not nearly enough--either way, the balance is off and you are left with the sight of a bunch of people slaughtering each other for reasons that are generally too obscure to make sense, too gory to find especially funny and too silly to take seriously for a second.

Colin Farrell stars as Marty Faranan, a screenwriter who apparently had success with his previous script but whose work day now consists largely at staring at a piece of paper containing little more than the title "Seven Psychopaths" while thoughtfully sipping from the nearest available adult beverage. Although this routine is beginning to wear extremely thin on Marty's long-suffering girlfriend (Abbie Cornish), he still has a big fan in loyal best pal Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell). Billy is such a devoted friend, in fact, that he decides that the best way to help Marty jump-start his screenplay is to put an ad in the paper asking psychopaths to come by and submit to interviews that can later be mined for material. Of course, Billy wasn't asked to run the ad nor is he willing to conduct any of the interviews or do any of the writing but he still figures that his contribution is worthy of a screen credit. (Don't laugh--plenty of people in Hollywood over the years have gotten prominent credit placement for doing practically nothing.) In Billy's favor, the ad does inspire the arrival of Zachariah (Tom Waits), a weirdo who turns up with a bunny rabbit in his hands and an outlandish tale about how he and a long-ago love used to drive around the country as serial killers who specialized in brutally dispatching other serial killers.

Besides, Billy has another job that takes up a good amount of his time---along with erstwhile partner Hans (played, perhaps inevitably, by Christopher Walken), he snatches the dogs of seemingly well-to-do people and after a couple of days, once the missing posters go up on the local telephone poles, Hans shows up on their doorsteps with the mutts and, after token resistance, accepts the rewards offered by the grateful owners. As schemes go, this is pretty much a profoundly stupid one (if I were plotting an illegal money-making enterprise, I would at the very least endeavor to ensure that it didn't sound vaguely like the plot of a long-forgotten David Spade movie but that is just me) but long before it can fall apart of its own accord, it quickly goes gunny when it transpires that the Shih Tzu that they have just snatched is the beloved companion of Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a hotheaded crime boss who will cheerfully spill as much blood as is necessary in order to ensure the return of his pet. He soon discovers that Benny and Hans are the ones responsible and as he goes in pursuit, the two of them, along with Marty (who has gotten roped into the proceedings for reasons too complicated to explain), head for the desert to hide out and, time permitting, help Marty with his screenplay. Meanwhile (you have to expect at least one "meanwhile" in a film like this), another psychopath known as The Jack of Diamonds is hanging on the periphery of the story and bumping off any gangsters who happen about. Yeah, this is the kind of film where someone like The Jack of Diamonds runs the risk of coming across as an afterthought.

While watching "Seven Psychopaths," I found myself having a curious reaction. For a while, I was having fun with it--the actors are all clearly having a blast savoring the dialogue supplied to them by writer-director Martin McDonagh, making his first film since the 2008 cult favorite "In Bruges," as though they were epicures and each line was a morsel from some unimaginable gustatory delight and some of the individual scenes (such as the opening bit involving a pair of extraordinarily unaware hired killers and the aforementioned sequence with Tom Waits) are enormously entertaining--but after a while, it became evident that instead of figuring out a way of pulling everything together into a satisfying whole, McDonagh was content with sticking with a more scattershot approach to the proceedings. By the time it hits its final scenes, it has flagrantly devolved into a collection of bits in which two or more people wander into the frame and trade acutely self-aware dialogue before at least one of them is dispatched in a ridiculously violent manner. Mind you, I am not one who is especially sensitive when it comes to outrageous violence in movies, even when it is used for comedic effect, as long as it is handled the right way and the filmmakers have found the right balance between the hilarious and the horrific--movies like "Pulp Fiction" or even "In Bruges" immediately come to mind. Here, McDonagh never quite finds the right tone and after a while, the endless bloodshed came across as being more tedious than anything else.

McDonagh is obviously a gifted writer--in addition to "In Bruges," he is also the author of several acclaimed plays--but this time around, he proves himself to be too clever by at least a half and probably more. The idea, I guess, was to write a screenplay that would work on its own as a self-contained story while also serving as a kind of commentary on the difficulties of following up the likes of "In Bruges." This is a legitimate approach, I guess, but it doesn't quite work here because he is too busy being glib or padding the narrative with off-the-wall moments to get around to making them work as a whole. For example, no doubt as a result of getting criticized in some quarters for the shallowness of the few female roles in "In Bruges," he has Marty's girlfriend complain to him about the weakness of his own female characters in ways that no doubt echo the critiques that he himself received. This is an amusing idea in theory but one that McDonagh then short-circuits by once again offering up female roles that, as is, would require weeks of beefing up to attain the ranking of "sketchy"--neither Abbie Cornish nor Olga Kurylenko (who pops up as the girlfriend of at least one character) are particularly well-served by the roles they have been given. Just because McDonagh is aware of his weaknesses as a screenwriter and is willing to make reference to them does not make those weaknesses disappear. If ever there was a case of a movie being dimly self-aware, "Seven Psychopaths" is that film.

Needless to say, I did not especially care for "Seven Psychopaths" but full disclosure compels me to mention that most of the audience at the preview screening I attended seemed to be wildly enamored by the whole thing. In addition, there are individual scenes throughout that I liked (there is a great bit involving the legendary Harry Dean Stanton as yet another psychopath and Walken's response to having a shotgun pointed at him is pretty brilliant as well) and the sight of actors as colorful as Farrell, Rockwell, Harrelson, Waits and Walken (especially the latter two) bouncing off of each other is undeniably entertaining up to a point. For myself, however, the fun just kind of stopped after a while and all I was left the sight of a bunch of good actors covered in blood and trading lines that were nowhere near as clever or witty as they were led to believe they would be. Here is hoping that someone had the foresight to set up a camera to capture the surely priceless spectacle of these actors sharing a long lunch break together to put on the Blu-Ray--if so, this could be one of those instances where the bonus material proves to be more focused and funny than the feature presentation.

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originally posted: 10/12/12 13:21:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 San Diego Film Festival For more in the 2012 San Diego Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/01/14 Monday Morning A great black comedy. Dark but very funny. 4 stars
11/25/13 Vanessa Campos Loved this movie. It was not what I expected but great. 4 stars
2/25/13 JCJS33 loved it...a good Tarantino style film in the sense of love the writing, twists and such fu 5 stars
2/18/13 Ben E Hana This movie put its lips on a chocolate starfish and didn't let go (sucked ass). 1 stars
1/15/13 Louise Came across to me like someone trying to make a Tarantino film - and failing.Disappointing. 3 stars
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  12-Oct-2012 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jan-2013


  DVD: 29-Jan-2013

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