Seven Psychopaths – a recursive romp in the American pysche

Another week and another three or so movies. This review is about “Seven Psychopaths”. The trailer of which made me suspicious. Too many big names. Too glib. Too slick. Too formulaic.

So having exhausted all other options I relented and let my 19 year old son talk me into seeing this. Ironically I enjoyed it more than he did, although we both liked it a lot. And we had a lot to talk about after it was over.


Seven Psychopaths was written and directed by Martin McDonagh who previously collaborated with Colin Farrell on the 2008 film In Bruges which I quite liked. So he has a track record of delivering on the formula of quirky+violent = funny.

Seven Psychopaths takes this algorithm to a new level.

The multiple stars (that worried me) include the aforementioned Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken with smaller roles for Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton and a bizarre appearance of Crispin Glover (uncredited). Now I write this down it doesn’t seem so star studded. Maybe I got confused by the “Seven” in the title. Probably. A great cast. Definitely.

Marty (Colin Farrell) is a strung-out writer living in L.A. He has a problems with alcohol, his girlfriend and writing. He can’t seem to get his script for “Seven Psychopaths” off the ground. It felt a bit Seinfeldian at this point. And thats a good thing.

Marty’s unstable friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) offers to help with stories, research and ideas for the screenplay. Marty’s not convinced that Billy will be much help in the screenplay writing department but kind of tolerates him. There’s a bit more to Marty than meets the eye. For one his business venture with Hans (Christopher Walken). This involves kidnapping dogs and returning them for reward from the grateful owners. Naturally Billy and Hans kipnap the wrong dog. A beloved Shih Tzu owned by a violent and erratic criminal Charlie (Woody Harrelson). Charlie doesn’t take this lying down and the underworld starts to close in on Billy and Hans. Marty finds himself drawn into the orbit of real, actual psychopaths.

As Marty, Billy and Hans hit the road to escape Charlie and his men, stories of killers, revenge and urban myths loom large. Marty is becoming increasingly unhinged, Billy loves every minute and Hans is strangely serene. They head out to the desert and the interwoven threads of a story within a story begin to weave a weird tapestry as a climatic showdown between our three heros and Charlie and his men takes place.


I liked this film quite a lot. Despite the subject matter each character draws you in – sometimes painfully close. There is a gentle and human side to this which was out of character with the fast-paced, wise-cracking tone set for much of the film. But it still worked. As someone said during the film it had layers.

It definitely had elements of “Pulp Fiction”. The script and performances – in particular Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken were amazing. Based on the trailer I thought Rockwell would be annoying after 5 minutes. After 90 minutes I wanted more from him.

There is a story, within a story, within a story and while it was a bit confusing I also found it compelling.  Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton provided the kind of quality support you’d expect.

9 out of 10

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Categories: Comedy, Drama, Films

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Good review. Everybody here seems to be having a ball with this script and how could you not? It’s snappy, dark, hilarious, and altogether, unpredictable as to where the hell it’s going to go next. That’s what I always like to see in my crime movies, actually, just movies in general.

  2. Great post, really enjoyed it!
    — Mabel

    http://www.bigconceptdesigns.com

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