Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Seven-Psychopaths-PosterStarring 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.

Seven-Psychopaths2I 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.


10 comments to Seven Psychopaths (2012)

  • The more I read about how much people liked this film, the more I’m keen to see it….. great review as usual, Will!!

    • Thanks! Well, whenever you track it down I hope you enjoy it! I liked it well enough, but I didn’t think it was especially good. It’s pretty unique, though.

  • I think I enjoyed it more than you but I do agree that, though I think it was designed to be a cult classic type of film, it doesn’t totally get there. What I did love about the movie was Sam Rockwell, who I think has always been brilliant in these weirdly quirky characters. I loved the dynamics between his character and Colin Farrell’s, in the way that he justified some of his violent proclivities in the name of helping his friend realize his dream of writing a great novel. I did find that amusing.

    It would be interesting if you do go back and watch the trailer as it kinda tries to misled in a way in terms of who exactly the seven psychopaths are which end up merging and overlapping between those fictional ones he creates.

    • The movie is unique enough to have a dedicated group of fans, but yeah, I don’t think it’s good enough to garner any real significant cult following. Sam Rockwell was born to play these types of roles, though, you’re dead-on there. I thought Christopher Walken’s and his were the most interesting characters, by far.

      I just watched the trailer and you’re right, they definitely obscure some of what the movie is, focusing more on the dog stealing and characters that aren’t in the movie much. It’s clear why they would do it that way, but it does mislead. That’s part of the reason I generally don’t watch trailers, and just try to watch whatever I’m interested in based on the talent involved.

  • Such an unpredictable, funny, and dark tale that only gets more entertaining as it goes along. Good review Will.

  • This just looked like such dark goofy fun. Glad to see it meets your approval.

  • Great review, Will. I had a similar reaction to this one. You make a good point about seeing this as a teenager — I probably would have fallen in love with this if I saw it back then as well. As it stands, it’s still a fun movie, especially since Sam Rockwell is allowed to basically run wild.

    • Thanks! It’s definitely unique and provides a lot of dark, twisted fun. Sam Rockwell is great. And I still can’t get over how good some of the gore was, technically speaking… better than a lot of modern horror films.

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