SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Movie Review
Seven Psychopaths is something to behold. Not because it’s one of the best movies of the year (which it is), but because of what it represents, and subsequently mocks, along the way. Seven Psychopaths a spoof on the Hollywood cookie-cutter formula, but it’s so careful in its crafting that it hardly comes across this way. Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) reteams with Colin Farrell and stays in his dark-comedy comfort zone, and his script works so brilliantly to keep your attention that you’ll have no trouble at all picking up the humor in both expected and unexpected places. The opening scene is every bit as formulaic as the films that it parodies, so beware any denouncement of “predictable”–you’d be falling into the trap.
McDonagh fictionalizes the concept of his script, putting it in the hands of Hollywood screenwriter and alcoholic Marty (Farrell). Except he only has the title—he doesn’t even have the seven psychopaths. But it’s such a good title, it’s only a matter of time. You’re only as crazy as the company you keep. Aside from the blood and vomit peppered on his clothes after a typical night of being an alcoholic, Marty is a pretty regular guy with a psycho best friend who will say or do anything as long as it’s amusing. Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken) and dog-nappers who steal dogs belonging to citizens that will pay handsomely for their safe return. Brilliant. Ever realize that the “good guy” you’re rooting for in a movie isn’t actually all that good? Little does Hans know that Charlie (Woody Harrelson) would act so erratically and violently when Bonny, his Shih Tzu, gets stolen. Take note, if at any time during Seven Psychopaths you question the motives of any of the seven characters deemed “psychopath”, therein lies your answer.
Walken and Rockwell play two halves of one psychopath. Billy is animated and doesn’t ever pass up the opportunity to make fun of Marty’s alcoholism. He knows he’s in a movie, or rather, he’s seen one too many of them. And he’s going to be quite sure this one ends the way he wants it to. Hans (like many Walken characters before him) has an outward nonchalance that disguises his recent and not-so-recent anguish. You’d never know he was crazy if it hadn’t been for the reason he wears a small scarf around his neck. The first half of the movie features Walken, more or less, doing Walken–though even if you can find criticism in that, this time it’s perfectly consistent with McDonagh’s concept. His work in the second half would be enough to earn him Oscar attention if the film took itself more seriously. Each of the seven men essentially hold a fraction of a whole psychopath. Let’s face it, if these guys didn’t at least have sporadic moments of coherency the film would go nowhere.
Sam Rockwell is absolutely outstanding in a lead protagonist role that seems long overdue. There is one sequence in particular in which his imagination runs wild; he has a brilliant idea for Marty’s screenplay and he’s going to share it. Imagine you’re at a party, and the most entertaining guest is telling his best story. And multiply that times fifty. This also aptly describes McDonagh’s articulation of his entire film. Seven Psychopaths, both noticeably and subtly, takes the blueprint of every action/adventure and comedy/drama you’ve seen in the last ten years and turns it into something that’s new, and while it certainly concentrates on parodying convention, nothing that happens seems calculated.