Seven Psychopaths is the kind of movie where I am completely aware of what is going on, yet I have no idea what’s happening. It is nonsensical and bathshit insane, but, at the same time, fully confident of its absurdity. It never holds back or dials down – it simply pushes it further and, somehow, continually manages to increase its hysteria.
Now, what I’ve just described is either my kind of movie, or something I don’t give two shits about. That’s the risk Seven Psychopaths takes. You’re bound to either love it or loathe it (or be completely indifferent toward it). If this is your kind of movie, then you’ll simply love every second of director Martin McDonagh’s tale. If you aren’t feeling it, then, well, you aren’t feeling it, and you’re going to be miserable.
Honestly, I could’ve just described the general consensus toward McDonagh’s first feature film, In Bruges, a brilliant crime comedy that remains one of the most genuinely hilarious films I have ever seen. I love that movie, many do not. And so it is and so it goes.
Back to Seven Psychopaths. It tells the story of Marty (Colin Farrell, good but not nearly as good as his In Bruges role) a noted Hollywood screenwriter desperately trying to pen his latest script, Seven Psychopaths. Marty doesn’t have many ideas on where he wants the script to go, but his gaudy friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell, stealing every scene, which is most of them) is here to help. Billy constantly throws psychopaths Marty’s way, both figuratively and literally.
Initially, Billy tells Marty tales of psychopaths he’s heard about, or exaggerates on stories he’s read in newspapers. Later in the film, we realize that some of these killers actually exist, and throughout the entire movie, we see various people play various variations of various killers. Some are real, some are in Marty’s head, some are in Billy’s head. You with me? Me either, and that’s because Seven Psychopaths, despite its enjoyable lunacy, bites off too much. It keeps feeding us more and more and more, literally up until its final frame. When it was done, I asked myself, “All of that? Why all of that?”
Maybe it’s because McDonagh knew he had tapped into something completely different while writing his script. He figured out a way to put genres, narratives and plot structures into a blender and hit pulse. I can dig that. And I can dig that, because the film is so different, it attracted a who’s-who of badass movie stars. Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Waits, hell even Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg briefly show up in roles not at all dissimilar from their respective Boardwalk Empire characters, all to help add weight to the film’s (purposeful) ludicrousness.
Christ, I haven’t even touched on the film’s dog kidnapping subplot, the vengeful Viet Cong priest, or the reason as to why Waits is always walking around with a fluffy white bunny, and that’s because, quite frankly, they aren’t necessary in the movie.
Look, Seven Psychopaths does exactly what it sets out to do: it makes us laugh with its over the top violence and theatrical performances. I liked it, but I would’ve liked it a whole lot more if it held a little back. Maybe that’s just not McDonagh’s style. Fair enough. B-