Starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Zeljko Ivanek, Linda Bright Clay
Directed by Martin McDonagh
Expectations: I don’t know. Not much.
Seven Psychopaths proves my rule of going into a movie as blind as possible. I had only vaguely watched the TV trailers for the film, so my sole knowledge of the film was that Colin Farrel, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken hung out in the desert at some point. Which was perfect. This is not to say that Seven Psychopaths has any huge “Oh shit!” moments to be spoiled, it’s just that in a movie that trades almost exclusively in wild plot twists and extreme explosions of violence, it’s kind of nice to actually be surprised by them. So with that in mind, read my review as I spoil some of that mystery for you! 🙂
Colin Farrell plays a Hollywood screenwriter enamored with the idea of writing a movie called Seven Psychopaths. In some ways, the movie we’re watching is also partially the movie he’s writing, as Farrell comes into contact with a lot of genuine psychopaths throughout the film and then adds them to his movie’s stew. I can’t imagine what the fictional film as dictated by the events of this movie would be, though, as you never really get the sense that the guy has much in the way of a story beyond a very odd group of psychopaths and their origins. I suppose that’s why we’re watching this movie AND that movie, instead of just one of them. But since I enjoy writing, I often found the parts about Farrell figuring out how to write the movie to be the most engaging, so it worked well as something of a hybrid film.
I will always be won over by a story that involves purposefully obscuring reality so that the audience isn’t entirely sure of what they’re experiencing. Seven Psychopaths never truly dips into that well, but it does kind of hover around it like a vulture and its scent is very aromatic. I don’t want to go into specifics here for fear of spoiling everything, and besides, it might just my personal obsession with that kind of story, coupled with my general paranoia, that’s making me think someone’s about to pull the rug out from under me. I honestly don’t know, but I like the movie better thinking there’s another layer around the outer fringes of the tale. The more I think about it, the crazier I feel for thinking there’s anything other than the surface-level stuff, though.
But what’s on the surface, you ask? Well, there’s a hell of a lot of graphic violence for one. Like “I watch a lot of gory horror movies, but this shit is gnarly as fuck” violence. There’s literally a scene of a lady sawing a dude’s head off with a saw. Holy shit! And an incredible head explosion. Seriously, one of the best modern head explosions I’ve seen. There are a lot of movies that claim to have unflinching violence, but Seven Psychopaths truly does not fuck around. What makes it strange, though, is that at its heart this movie is a comedy. A very, very dark one, obviously, but a comedy nonetheless. And the violence here isn’t exactly within the horror comedy style, either. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fucked up individual, but I have a hard time coming around to laughing at a movie with a tone like this one that also whips out such extreme violence as this. I had the same issue with Django Unchained, but before I start another 1500 words on my issues with that movie, let me get back to Seven Psychopaths.
Movies that shift tones quickly can be very good, and but during Seven Psychopaths I was always in some state of unease. I liked some bits, while others left me completely cold. I barely laughed at all, but there were some truly inspired moments of comedy. The violence was incredibly graphic and technically well-realized, but it’s also over the top and there purely for shock value (and as dark comedy). This type of scale-balancing talk can only mean one thing: that Seven Psychopaths was just OK. I’m glad I saw it and I was definitely entertained, but it didn’t wow me. I imagine if this came out when I was a teenager (like Pulp Fiction or The Usual Suspects did) then I would be singing a different tune, but for now I can only call it like I see it. That’s me, though, and I’m sure many would enjoy it regardless. Provided you are somewhat sadistic, of course.