[Review] - Seven Psychopaths

Courtesy of CBS Films
You've got to give the marketing team a hand for this one. Usually, when a movie this outside the box comes along, the marketing is all over the place, uncertain how, or whom, to entice into the theatre. The trailers play up the dognapping aspect, which is good, because it's the closest thing this movie has to a linear, coherent story. It is also a very minor part of the film. The rest of it is reactions, dream sequences, short films, and one of the best third acts I've seen this year.

It is, in short, brilliant. And devilishly funny. And incredibly violent. And very self aware.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that would really like to help write a screenplay.

Seven Psychopaths isn't a simple movie to discuss. It's a been a few days, and I still don't know quite what to say about it, which will probably make this review short. And I think that is one of it's finer attributes: it's very hard to explain. It really has to be seen. On the surface, it's the story of a screenwriter caught up in a world of criminal intrigue after his friend kidnaps a mobster's dog. But that plot is nothing more then a precipitating event to launch the real movie: a deconstruction of the action movie genre, wrapped around the character studies of seven very different sorts of bad guys.

If you had told me, in an ensemble film like this, that Christopher Walken would be the most reserved of the bunch, I'd have been skeptical. But that is a pretty good gauge at the extreme nature of these characters: they don't react subtly. Nor do many of them have an in between. They are either at a stand still, or they are at full tilt. For most of them though, considering that they are after all psychopaths, there is no emotional journey between those two points. The angry remain angry, the calm remain calm, the manic remain manic. Which is why Colin Ferrell's character exists within the universe of the story. He acts and reacts in the normal way, which gives the audience a balance to judge the overreactions of the psychos off of.

The film is very self aware. Listen closely, and the plot is laid out for the audience ahead of time (a trick writer/director Martin McDonagh used in In Bruges as well). More then that, the film is the events, and the events are the film, if that made any sense (it did not). There is no difference between the film we as the audience are watching and the film Farrell's character is writing, but it is more then a film within a film. It is in the act of creating itself. Characters point out flaws of the film they exist within, within the context of the screenplay. They spend the majority of the third act brainstorming ways for the film to end. The psychopaths essentially wrestle control of the film away from the audience, and shape it according to their own perverse whims. Which is, of course, a reflection of the audience's own perverse insistence on the large, the loud and the extreme in modern action films. Inside the film, the psychos run the show, and outside the film, we are the psychos. It isn't just meta, or fourth wall breaking, it's a deconstruction of those concepts. In this film, nothing is safe, even our concepts of reality.

It is also a well wrapped package for a series of only tenuously related short stories, told mostly in flash back or voice over, and one of the joys of the film is seeing how, or if, they come together. The film itself seems less concerned with following any sort of standard plot, in favour of examining and stringing together these shorter moments. Indeed, the seven psychopaths of the title run the gambit between real and fictional. And rather flagrantly misuse the word "seven".

As the movie escalates, so does the psychopathic tendencies of the cast. So too does the cartoonishness of the violence, erupting in an absurd fantasy sequence that Michael Bay would consider too subtle. To say that it is endlessly fascinating, and a delight to watch at every moment is an understatement. The nearly two hours flies by, feeling like half that. But that doesn't mean the ending is less then satisfying. Indeed, after the build up, and the stepping off of the stage, the ending is poignant, touching, almost artful. Taking mania and focusing it, almost like a diamond forming, the film ends on a moment of honesty, wrapped in fiction, depicting reality.

I think this film moved me in a way I wasn't expecting. And I don't think I should even try to describe what that feels like. Just see the movie, and see if it moves you.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


  1. Good review. Such an unpredictable, funny, and dark tale that only gets more entertaining as it goes along. It's not as near-perfect as In Bruges, but still a whole of fun all the same.