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Seven Psychopaths

tn_sevenpsychopathsNow that I’ve seen SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS I understand why the ads made it look so dumb: it’s too hard to explain. They made it look like some corny post-Tarantino “isn’t it funny, they’re hardened criminals but they’re arguing over a Shih Tzu!” type bullshit. And that’s in there – writer/director Martin McDonagh (IN BRUGES) is about the only guy whose style can remind me of Tarantino in a good way – but overall it’s weirder and more distinct than that.

In IN BRUGES the protagonists were hit men, and there was a subplot about a movie being filmed near where they’re staying. In this one the movie business is more central. Colin Farrell plays a clearly idiotic screenwriter trying to write something called SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, but he doesn’t have much more than a title. He doesn’t even have seven psychopaths, so he just spends his time trying to think of concepts for different psychopaths, sometimes based on stories he’s heard or seen in the news. So we see these stories in his head, or going on around him, and fictional reality begins to blend with fiction-within-fiction.

Meanwhile, his asshole actor friend (Sam Rockwell) has gotten into some shit. He has a scam going where he steals women’s dogs, then has Christopher Walken show up at their houses pretending he found them, at which point they give him money. But he stole a Shih Tzu from Gabourey Sidibe, and she was actually walking it for a gangster (Woody Harrelson). He loves that dog and leaves a trail of bodies in his quest to get it back.

The self-absorbed screenwriter keeps trying to work on his movie while Rockwell tries to make his life more like a movie, talking about team-ups and a “final shoot out in the desert” and things like that that, of course, end up happening. Lots of meta going on here, but not too cute in my opinion. I think it works.

Meanwhile, everybody keeps offering their advice for SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, which sounds terrible.

mp_sevenpsychopathsIt’s a pretty random movie, but it seems to be McDonagh’s trademark to have all sorts of seemingly tossed off elements end up tying together. In IN BRUGES it felt a little more natural. Here it’s kinda cartoonish the way all these characters we’re meeting all over the place end up tying together. But it’s funny.

There are alot of great scenes, mostly about conversations. There’s the one where Woody Harrelson comes to the hospital to threaten Walken’s wife (Linda Bright Clay), but he doesn’t seem to know he’s found her because he doesn’t know that Walken’s wife is black. So there’s a long, tense scene where they talk and we worry that either he’s gonna figure out it’s her or that he already has and is drawing it out out of sadism.

But the best scene is probly the one where Tom Waits, holding a bunny, shows up sitting outside Farrell’s house, responding to a classified ad that Rockwell never should’ve written. Waits tells a great story about murdering serial killers. The best part is who the bunny came from.

A buddy of mine told me that McDonagh wrote the script about 15 years ago. He thought it was supposed to be a comment on the post-Tarantino indie crime movies of the ’90s and therefore was way too late out of the gate. I thought it was more about movie cliches in general, I didn’t notice it being specific to that genre or era, but maybe that broadness is a weakness anyway. It is reminiscent of those movies in one good way: it has a huge cast with a weird combination of beloved and/or under-recognized character actors and unexpected faces. Along with the people I’ve already mentioned there are appearances by Harry Dean Stanton, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Brendan Sexton III and Crispin Glover.

I especially give the movie credit for its use of Walken. Those aforementioned ’90s movies pretty much ran his KING OF NEW YORK image into the ground. Now he’s getting good at playing this lovable nerdy old guys. Here he combines that with a low life petty criminal. I also liked seeing Harrelson here. Not his best character, but a good one that takes advantage of his perpetually underrated acting and comedy chops. Just now I read that Mickey Rourke originally dropped out of EXPENDABLES 2 to play that character but quit and called McDonagh a “jerk-off.” That would’ve been interesting too because the love for silly little dogs would’ve been autobiographical. But I like what Harrelson does with it.

It’s no surprise though that Rockwell is sort of the center of attention. He’s an endearing yet despicable terrible-best-friend character. The character is not a stretch for him at all but since he’s great at it why not let him do it?

And I gotta mention Farrell too. He’s kind of the more normal guy so you focus on everyone around him, but he’s holding it all together. I like seeing him play insecure, vulnerable guys. It’s a more natural fit for him than you’d think.

McD is a playwright, so it makes sense that his strength is dialogue and working with actors to deliver it well. There are so many laughs just from the wording the characters choose. Then again my biggest laugh wasn’t a line, but a reaction. When an awkward conversation comes up in a bar Rockwell dismisses himself from the situation by casually sipping through a straw while turning his face to the brick wall that’s right next to him. Like he’s hiding in the corner or something. Don’t make eye contact, act natural.

I would say this is not as good as IN BRUGES. It’s more scattershot and light weight. But McD might’ve needed to get this out of his system before going back to something more focused and disciplined. At any rate, it’s worth watching. It’s a unique movie with alot of laughs, some tension and a great cast who all seem to be having a great time.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 8th, 2013 at 1:29 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “Seven Psychopaths”

  1. Saw this in the theater, loved it and laughed my head off at most of it. It has an insane energy, much of which is coming from Rockwell. I think IN BRUGES is far better too, but this was a promising follow-up. I’d heartily recommend THE GUARD, written and directed by Martin’s brother John Michael.

  2. Glad other people respect & enjoy this movie, but it did nothing for me. Maybe it’s IN BRUGES’s fault. And McD’s stage plays’ fault (I’ve seen 2 of them.). Expectations, I guess. None of the jokes made me laugh. Few of the meta elements were clever or revelatory.

    Rockwell is more annoying than funny.

    The backstories & murder fantasies packed very little punch, though the suicidal throat-slitting ghost-quaker was spooky (and Walken’s scar reveal, though I wish that bit had been more cathartic & scary).

    I liked Tom Waits’s piece okay; that was funny-ish. (<– obligatory gratitude expressed here, lest he find me & kill me for forgetting to acknowledge him as promised)

    I love me some McD, but the whiny "struggling-artist-searching-for-himself" gist of PSYCHOPA7HS seems unearned & slight. If it worked for you, that's fine; I can see how it'd appeal to a lot of people, even if it didn't land for me, so don't let my negativity kill your buzz.

    The brevity & horrendous treatment of Olga Kurylenko's role was the coup de grâce for any possible enjoyment I could get from this movie. Other reviews briefly mention the macho-centrism (or even misogyny) of the characters & the script
    (which excuses itself from criticism on this point by "cleverly" stating outright that of course it has a lack of decent, not-slaughtered female characters),
    which doesn't bother me, especially if it's just another statement on post-Tarantino crime/deconstruction films.
    And the fate of Abbie Cornish, who's also underused, undervalued, & unceremoniously eliminated from the plot, doesn't bother me.
    But Olga. Just… Olga. If you have a treasure like Olga Kurylenko in your movie, you should treat her better.

  3. What’s with McDonagh’s obsession with the Vietnamese?

  4. Onthewall – Is The Guard anywhere near as good as In Bruges? If so I must watch immediately. I hear Gleeson plays a comedic Bad Lieutenant.

  5. The Original... Paul

    February 8th, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    I had the opportunity to see this one, but didn’t. Vern’s review pretty much agrees with the other stuff I’ve heard about it. Would kind of like to have seen it, but oh well. I won’t regret this one like “Imposter” or “Tree of Life”.

  6. I actually preferred this to In Bruges. I think because I loved Walken and Rockwell’s character more than Gleeson. I also thought the pathos around Walker’s wife was compelling. Unfortunately, no dwarfs had their heads blown off in this one, but you did get the awesome Tom Waits cameo.

  7. I know I’m in the minority here but I hated it. It’s so smug. “Look, we’re talking about a screenplay, but then that screenplay actually happens!” “Look how stupid movie cliches are. Did you notice that the same thing often happens in more than one film of the same genre?”

    Maybe I’m too close to the material. I love the movies 7 PSYCHOS is spoofing, although to me I see it broadly as action movies, not just crime movies. So I know the genre well enough I find them being entirely simplistic, which of course appealed to lots of critics who hate action movies and could jump on board. But obviously that’s not the case with Vern so he sees something legit in there.

    I agree, the scene with Harrelson in the nursing home is great. That’s about it.

    I think what was great about IN BRUGES was that the characters were being insensitive, but they were not wrong. That fat guy really couldn’t walk up all the stairs. You’re just not supposed to say that. Here they’re making easy jokes, and Rockwell is acting out like a kid who did one thing funny that made adults laugh and now you can’t get him to stop.

    But, you know, I’m Fred Topel. I liked HUDSON HAWK before it was cool to and I still love LAST ACTION HERO, MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN, SNAKES ON A PLANE, HARD RAIN, STREET FIGHTER: THE MOVIE, and unironically HOWARD THE DUCK. But not SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS.

  8. I guess the meta stuff just seemed so non-specific that I really didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t see it as an attack on action movies because they were things like “they’ll have a showdown in the desert” which is from westerns and every other type of movie. It also wasn’t even sticking to movie references, it was more stuff like he hears a story and writes it in the movie and then finds out the real story from the real guy. It’s more layering than referencing. It’s not SCREAM (in a good way or in a bad way). If I had seen that stuff as the main reason for the movie’s existence (like the comparable but much smarter gimmicks in CABIN IN THE WOODS) I would’ve thought it was terrible. It definitely doesn’t have anything new to say about movies.

    Also I didn’t think you were supposed to take Colin Farrell seriously as a struggling artist. It was more of a BARTON FINK kind of self-deprecating portrait of screenwriters.

  9. I enjoyed it too, even though it was completely different from what I was expecting. So that was DEFINITELY Crispin Glover then in that court scene? They seemed to be going out of their way to highlight him in the background there, but I couldn’t find any firm confirmation that it was him.

    “What’s with McDonagh’s obsession with the Vietnamese?”
    Well he’s Irish. Maybe he sees some parallels between his people and the Vietnamese with regards to their experiences with foreign interlopers.

  10. Well it looked funny on the trailer but you just made it sound confusing. Think maybe I’ll pass. I don’t like ending up sitting on the sofa looking confused and asking why someone did something weird. And “Because it’s in the plot” doesn’t work for me.

  11. BARTON FINK comparison, eh? I musta been so blinded by the sadly truncated Olga-ness of 7 PSYCHOPATHS that I didn’t think of that.
    That, and I thought this movie used Colin Farrell’s (McD’s stand-in’s) drinking as the source of his idiocy & inability to be productive & loving toward his girlfriend. (The bottle is practically a member of the cast. Fookin’ Irishmen.)
    Or the fact that he has stupid, immature friends. Didn’t seem innate or an extension of his ego/grandiosity/idealism, as it was with Turturro in BARTON FINK.

  12. I’ll give The Guard some love, thought Gleeson’s very flawed protagonist was a great character study. It doesn’t hurt the film is hilarious at times. Was really looking forward to Seven Psychopaths since thought In Bruges was outstanding, obviously humor is a very subjective thing and really couldn’t get into the movie because didn’t find it very funny.

  13. I don’t think this was that great of a movie, but I still enjoyed it I guess because I was just in the right mood to see it or something. It’s impossible to describe the meta elements of the movie without them sounding way more irritating than they actually come across as though. But In Bruges and The Guard are definitely better.

  14. Hey Mouth, funny you should mention Olga, because after watching this movie I realized she’s been developing a rather unique screen identity; the gorgeous, damaged beauty that the hero cannot, for one reason or another, sleep with. This theory started with Hitman, gained traction with Quantum of Solace, and now found a kind of validation and actually made me laugh when Sam Rockwell couldn’t get it up. I mean, it was like McD believed my theory too, and wrote this part for her as a kind of meta joke. Man, I hope Tom Cruise finally gives her the loving she so richly deserves in Oblivion, or else we’ll be entering Sean Bean territory here.

    Course, I’m not an Olga completist, so if one of her characters has had sex on screen, and it wasn’t interrupted, disappointing, or others less than satisfying, please let me know . . . For science.

    Also, she was excellent in Centurion, really one of the highlights of an all around good movie. Although Dominic West says at one point “I don’t know whether to fuck her or fight her,” his (spoiler) death at her hands later doesn’t seem quite in keeping with my theory overhead since the entire point of her character in that movie was that she was a warrior, not a lover. Then again, I guess it could count. What say all of you, peanut gallery?

  15. Working on being an Olga completist. I even used to live above a Bebe store (fashion label for which she was the primary model), so I saw her gorgeousness every day when I descended from my apartment to the world. Probably brainwashed impressionable younger me. I miss living there; so many hot girls, and the hottest one of all was there literally at my doorstep, 10 feet tall in a tiny dress, 24/7. (Sorry, Vanessa.)

    I still need to see KIROT (THE ASSASSIN NEXT DOOR aka WALLS), which looks promising as an Olga-centric film, and a couple others where she’s a supporting role.

    Olga’s exploited & mistreated in THE RING FINGER, too. Strange but boring film; can’t recommend it. Made me feel guilty & pervy seeing naked Olga treated like that.

    Her part in the wordless “Quartier de la Madeleine” segment of PARIS JE T’AIME is good. She’s a hot vampire who’s lusted after by that lil dweebus hobbit motherfucker Elijah Wood. He even slits his own wrist in order to get her attention (loser move), but she just looks at him for a second and floats away uninterested (boss move). Then there’s a cute surprise ending, etc..

    Olga mistreats herself in HITMAN, but Timothy Olyphant responds appropriately to her sluttiness. Good role for her, and, really, I think we can all agree that Marshal Raylan Givens is the only guy worthy of Olga in any of her onscreen iterations so far. Terrible movie, though.

    I’ve wiped QUANTUM OF SOLACE from my memory completely.

    CENTURION is fun & ridiculous, as is Olga’s performance.

    I wanted to like MAGIC CITY, specifically for the Olga, but I stopped after 2 episodes. It was trying so hard to plagiarize MAD MEN while clumsily mixing in elements of MIAMI VICE and PIRANHA 3D; I couldn’t stand it, despite the hotness of the naked chicks. Maybe someday I’ll watch & see if it gets better.

    There’s a couple other holes in my viewing history of her filmography. Do I need to see MAX PAYNE? Cuz I’d rather not.

  16. Mouth. You do not. Nor should you.

  17. Crispin Glover?

    Once everyone sees Terrence Malick’s new movie, they will all want to shoot Olga Kurylenko in the stomach.

  18. Olga as a hot vampire? I must seek this out. And I concur on Magic City; too much riding on Mad Men’s coat tails, although Danny Huston was wonderfully over the top as the mob boss.

  19. Speaking of Walken, I saw STAND UP GUYS yesterday. It’s not the best use of his and Pacino’s talents, but it is fun seeing them do the “old gangster” shtick for 90 minutes.

  20. So I saw KIROT (THE ASSASSIN NEXT DOOR aka WALLS), starring Olga as a sex-slave-escapee-debtor-hitman. (“Hitwoman” sounds wrong, and “hitman” doesn’t seem sexist.)

    Interesting film. A little better than PSYCHOP7THS, but way different b/c KIROT is not a comedy at all, so ymmv. Blows the Bechdel test away, which is refreshing, and it oscillates from an initial endearing dtv action vibe to a slick moody arthouse vibe to an internationally nuanced version of THELMA & LOUISE vibe to a standard but nihilistic action movie vibe to melodrama.

    I appreciated it, especially the hit job scenes, which feel like Al Pacino’s first murder in THE GODFATHER or the initiation scenes of LA FEMME NIKITA / POINT OF NO RETURN, and double especially this one longish steadicam shot


    that moves from car interior to parking lot exterior to nightclub interior to upstairs to bathroom to bathroom stall (from cramped space to open space to cramped to open to very cramped), tracking Olga’s eyes & surroundings while moving to a very tense decision point where she must take chances, take charge, and carry out her bloody job. (Make what you will of the possibly symbolic-ironic positioning & distance of Olga the model-actress in that restroom, unnoticed as the only woman there *not* absorbed with her looks/hair/attire in the mirror.)

    Good stuff (not great), and it helps that Olga actually looks believable brandishing a burner and shoving & punching people. Not bad for a thin little Bebe model.

    solongyoubastard will be happy to know that she gets shot in the stomach, so hopefully I can enjoy TO THE WONDER knowing that this justice has been done already.
    Others will be glad to know that, yes, the film finds a way to get her naked again, but it happens in the course of some religious water ceremony, so it’s, like, spiritual or whatever, not sexual.

  21. I thought it moved well between moments of cool synchronicity (the Quaker story) and genuinely emotional stuff, like the aforementioned stuff to do with Walken’s wife. Was less pleased with the film’s insistence on undercutting its occasionally strident, operatic moments of romanticism with being a general smartass. The best example is, immediately after Walken proposes a solution to the Vietnamese hitman (arguably the film’s emotional climax), his character makes a pretty lame and dated-sounding quip about using the word “fag”. It’s like the film was afraid of embarassing itself by being too sincere. It should have worn its heart on its sleeve more proudly in my opinion. PTA never felt the need to apologize for the frogs in MAGNOLIA, and neither should this picture be ashamed of how ridiculously its operatic qualities might be coming across.

    Meanwhile I was a huge fan of the acting in the film, particularly Sam Rockwell. I think Rockwell is one of two or three of the best American actors working today and have felt this way ever since his insane performance in CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, compounded by the surprising restraint in MOON. His delivery the second time he says “I meant clymidia,” as if she didn’t hear him the first time, was maybe my favorite moment of humor in the film. Or when he realizes that Gandhi was wrong and gets overly excited before he can get the words out to share his discovery with is buds. Dude played me like a fiddle, what can I say.

    Also I really dug that Walken seems to be re-reinventing himself as someone that can be regarded seriously once more and not as a parody of himself.

    Flawed and stuck a bit too far up its own ass, but one of the better times I had at the movies last year.

  22. Don’t forget about Olga and Max Payne. She wanted to fuck him early in the movie and he was still morning the loss of his wife and children.

    I guess Vern wasn’t moved by her presence in this film. Boy I was. She’s drop dead gorgeous.

  23. Thank you GQ. My theory has just grown stronger, and I don’t need to see MAX PAYNE. Two birds, one stone!

  24. Another recommendation for The Guard.

    Also, apparently at some point Rourke clarified that his issue was not with McDonagh, but one of the producers.

  25. So I furthered my Olga completism by seeing TO THE WONDER.

    She somehow ends up in bed with Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad. Can’t say I’m happy about that.

    OBLIVION will be next.

  26. Knox Harrington

    April 19th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Mouth, you lucky fucker. I’d do unethical things to watch TO THE WONDER.

    Not happy about that spoiler, though. Skinny Pete. Goddammit.

  27. I’ve actually seen it twice this week. Today I attempted to sync the new Ghostface Killah album to TO THE WONDER, listening to the former over the volume of the latter. Not sure why. Just wanted to multitask and make the new Malick more narratively satisfying & more hip-hoppy, I guess.

    I tried to do the same thing with my least favorite Tarantino film, KILL BILL VOLUME 2. Mixed results.

  28. Knox Harrington

    April 20th, 2013 at 3:20 am

    That’s great, Mr Manotaur. Thanks for the link.

    But I plan on watching that one in theatres. If ever there was a filmmaker whose work deserved the big screen, it’s Malick.

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  30. I just saw it. Man, that McD dude is a great writer and director, but you know how much I hate movies with inconsistent tone and it might be a little early to ask that, but I wonder if he is able to make a comedy that is JUST funny and not sprinkled with seriously depressing moments. (He would be a perfect writer for DOCTOR WHO in that regard.)

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