Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: Seven Psychopaths

If you’ve seen In Bruges from writer/director Martin McDonagh it’s plainly evident that he fancies himself a disciple from the Guy Ritchie school of movie making.  He utilizes the same tone, voice, and style that Ritchie wielded in movies like RocknRolla, Snatch, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.  McDonagh’s latest movie, Seven Psychopaths, likewise follows in this tradition of overly violent movies that feature huge ensemble casts, intertwining plot lines, and a dearth of intelligence obscured by outlandishly skewed sensibilities. 

The plot of the film focuses on a writer (Colin Farrell), who is currently struggling to pen a screenplay about seven psychopaths.  When his friend Billy steals the dog of a particularly violent crime boss and initiates a quest on his behalf to find inspiration by reaching out to other psychopaths, the plot takes on a series of violent twists and turns leading up to a bloody climax.

To enjoy this film, you have to check your common sense at the door and embrace the chicanery that ensures.  And even then it can be a tough sell.  Characters move and act in certain ways with the singular purpose of delivering blood and guts, but it’s far too easy for viewers to see through the paper-thin plot mechanisms that merely serve as window dressings along the way to catchy punch lines and bloody visuals.  At its base, a film has to have a story that moves from point A to point B.  Seven Psychopaths lacks this basic component.  It’s more a collection of violence thrown together with the end goal of Farrell’s Marty writing his script.  And that begs the question as to where the payoff is in that.

Still, as you look up and down the cast one cannot help but feel hope.  Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, and Woody Harrelson are three accomplished actors who are always a threat to steal every scene they are in.  Unfortunately, the script and direction never put them in a position to do so.  Likewise Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko – two competent actress that are also very easy on the eyes – are terribly underutilized and make no impact on this film whatsoever. 

As for Colin Farrell, he is not his typically terrible self.  Normally after watching one of Farrell’s films, I am left with some choice words to describe what I have seen.  However, after watching Seven Psychopaths, I have come to the simple realization that he is perfectly incapable of playing a likable character.  Whether it’s the personal baggage or his craft limitations, the man cannot pull it off – even if you cast him as a war veteran who saves a thousand babies from a burning building, writes a haiku to the his high school sweetheart, and subsequently fends off the world from an alien invasion.  People would still come away from that movie disliking him, and it is this quality that cripples the narrative as his character must be the moral center drowning in a sea of immorality.

Am I saying that there is no entertainment value?  Absolutely not.  It is just difficult to enjoy a movie that is not metaphorically comfortable in its own skin.  The writing, directing, and acting comes off as overly earnest in its desire to be off beat, quirky, and edgy.  In a lot of ways, this movie is not unlike that weird cousin who invites himself over for the holidays.  He/she provides a few moments of ridiculousness that produces a round or two of chuckles during dinner, but ultimately at the end of the night you are left regretting ever letting them through the front door.  There’s just not enough in this film to fully warrant watching this movie, though under very specific circumstances, value can be found.  Leave it at the bottom of your Netflix queue or catch it on HBO and you probably won’t hate yourself when you finally get around to watching it.

Standout Performance: Woody Harrelson.  While it’s not his best performance he definitely commits to the role and goes for it.


  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.