Seven Psychopaths
Not Psycho Enough

It all sounded so brilliant.  Director Martin McDonagh reunites with his In Bruges star Colin Farrell for a comedy called Seven Psychopaths.  As if that weren’t enough, the cast of the psychopaths was filled out by the likes of Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, and Christopher Walken!  How could it be anything but great?  Unfortunately, the movie turns out to be just a mildly amusing mess.

Farrell plays Marty, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter working on a script titled—what else?— Seven Psychopaths.  He loves the title, but unfortunately that is the only part of the movie that he’s got figured out so far.  Enter his best friend Billy, who fills his head with stories of real-life psychopaths and even takes out an ad in L.A. Weekly leading applicants to his doorstep.

Billy is an out-of-work actor who earns a living by kidnapping dogs and having his partner return them to their owners for the reward money.  Everything goes wrong, however, when Billy snags the wrong Shih Tzu.  The dog belongs to one of those psychopaths who sends henchman out to retrieve his beloved companion by any means necessary.  This forces Billy and his partner Hans to flee the city, and Marty gets taken along for the ride.

Woody Harrelson in Seven PsychopathsThe promise of the premise seems justified in the movie’s early scenes, especially a clever, Tarantino-esque opening featuring a couple of mobsters and a killer called the “Jack of Diamonds Killer.”  Unfortunately, from there it all just spirals out of the control.  As it turns out, McDonagh—who also wrote the script—had about as much of an idea for the film’s actual plot as his main character.  What we end up getting is a plot that is so much of a mess that it felt like they were all just making it up as they went along.

The tone of the film is constantly shifting back and forth between goofy and serious, as if it were trying too hard to make these characters sympathetic rather than just allowing us to find them outrageous.  It kind of works with Hans, the character played by Christopher Walken, whom we might be talking about for a best supporting actor Oscar if he gave the same performance in a better movie.  As for everyone else, it seems McDonagh would have done better had he pushed his characters even more towards the extremes, rather than constantly trying to bring them back to Earth.

The movie and its characters are definitely at their best when they venture further out towards those extremes, but because they don’t do so enough, the movie comes off more as simply amusing than actually funny.  There are a few really good lines, but most of these were already featured in the trailers, so their impact is lessened for anyone who has seen one of them.

There is a great film buried somewhere beneath the rubble, but unfortunately on the screen it is just a mess.

Seven Psychopaths is rated R for “strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity, and some drug use.”  No effort was made to keep this from being anything but an R.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Seven Psychopaths.