Seven Psychopaths gleefully guts crime-movie tropes | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Seven Psychopaths gleefully guts crime-movie tropes 

Some audiences will be shocked at the graphic, gruesome ways murder is served up in Seven Psychopaths. But there will probably be some, like myself, who'll be shocked by how much the movie gets away with oozing obvious contempt for the Hollywood industry and its predictable practices. This flick is proof that studio execs never know what they've green-lighted until the movie is finished.

The second feature from writer/ director/ playwright/ Anglo-Irishman Martin McDonagh, Psychopaths continues in the same deconstructive, profanely funny vein he brought to his 2008 debut In Bruges. It gleefully guts the crime-movie tropes we've become accustomed to.

The movie begins with two suave-looking hit men (Boardwalk Empire fans will be giddy with the casting of these roles) cracking shit and talking wise—pure Tarantino archetypes—before a masked gunman walks up to them and blows holes in their heads. The killer, who spends most of the movie offing mid-level hoodlums, could be a stand-in for McDonagh, but if so, it's not his only surrogate in the film: Colin Farrell, who gave his best performance starring in McDonagh's last film, plays a hard-drinking Irish screenwriter named—wait for it!—Marty. The movie version of Marty is trying to come up with the septet of killers for his screenplay, also called Seven Psychopaths.

It's a good thing his action-loving actor buddy Billy (Sam Rockwell) is around to bounce ideas off. Billy also has a dog-kidnapping business with Zen-like, cop-hating Christian Hans (Christopher Walken, in his own world as always), who uses the money to pay for his ailing wife's medical bills. The bullets start flying when a very unstable gangster (Woody Harrelson) comes gunning for them after they kidnap his beloved Shih Tzu.

Yes, it sounds like the sort of ridiculous setup Guy Ritchie would fashion a film out of in a heartbeat. But this merely leads the way for McDonagh to show off his meta skills. As Farrell's frustrated screenwriter bitches about writing a film with some substance, Psychopaths uses most of its screen time exposing the sensationalistic emptiness of contemporary pulp cinema by exposing its own sensationalistic emptiness. A movie that openly admits its own female characters (which includes Abbie Cornish and former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko) are mostly nothing but poorly written, easily discarded eye candy, Seven Psychopaths virtually comes off like a freewheeling, Charlie Kaufman-written version of a scuzz movie.

As heady, unpredictable and compulsively watchable as this movie is, I'm still unconvinced all of it works. As often happens with films that have a narrative this ambitious and laboriously paced, some of Psychopath's ideas are more laid-out than others. Despite the blood-spattered action that goes down (including a bunny-carrying Tom Waits who tells Farrell a tale that is a gorier version of Natural Born Killers), the audience may be more weirded out when Marty, Billy and Christian hide in the desert to kill time until the climax of the movie happens.

Much like in his superior In Bruges, McDonagh primarily addresses how these types of movies not only never take death seriously, but rarely provide characters who nobly, fearlessly welcome it. Violence may be served up in copious amounts, but McDonagh also creates characters who have no qualms going gently into that good night. As much of a cinematic clusterfuck of carnage Seven Psychopaths is, I'm glad the movie exists.

This article appeared in print with the headline "A great escape."

Film Details

Seven Psychopaths
Rated R · 109 min. · 2012
Official Site:
Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Producer: Martin McDonagh, Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin
Cast: Collin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, Sam Rockwell, Olga Kurylenko, Gabourey Sidibe, Kevin Corrigan, Brendan Sexton III and Tom Waits


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Seven Psychopaths


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review

Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

The only peeople who murdered those boys were let off by an inexperienced prosecutor and hoodwinked judge. The facts are …

by Greg 1 on The West Memphis Three are free ... what about the real killer? (Film Review)

"Miles Ahead"... "opening Friday".... where? I'm having a tough time finding film times/locations on now. The …

by Tbone on Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis Film, Miles Ahead, Isn’t a Real Biopic—It’s Something Better (Film Review)

Actually, many evangelicals and other Christians would not agree with the notion that "if you are a true believer you …

by bsquizzato on Film Review: Christian Movie Miracles From Heaven Goes Where Secular Hollywood Won't (Film Review)


The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation