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Seven Psychopaths

October 30, 2012

Seven Psychopaths is a strange film, perhaps the strangest non-experimental film I’ve ever seen. In Bruges writer director Martin McDonagh is no stranger to stories of existentialism and debates of moral ethics. In Bruges follows two assassins looking to clear their conscious and soul of their deeds despite the threat of death from their boss. If In Bruges touched on existential themes, then Seven Psychopaths is an exploration of a full on existential crisis. Marty, an alcoholic writer, is working on a screenplay about a group of psychopaths seeking peaceful redemption, aptly titled “Seven Psychopaths.” When his neurotic friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) informs him of a serial killer on the loose who only kills mob bosses, the two team up to come up with more characters for Marty’s screenplay.

Marty’s collaboration with Billy ultimately leads him down a rabbit hole as he meets, and in some cases creates, seven very different but very genuine psychopaths. When Billy, who works in a dog kidnapping ring, steals a shitzhu from a very angry mob boss, Charlie (Woody Harrelson), the hunt to find his dog begins and Charlie and his goons soon crosses paths with Marty leading the group to embark on an adventure featuring a hail of bullets, blood, and the discussion of morality and redemption.

Seven Psychopaths is all over the place as it has a desire to mix balls to the wall action with heartfelt dialogue. The few females featured in the story are poorly developed and stories jump back and forth developing some aspects and nearly ignoring all others until the end. The beauty of Seven Psychopaths is that its aware of all of this even confronting most of these flaws and mishaps head on through the mouths of Marty and Billy. However, its self-reflexiveness is far from its strongest element. If it weren’t for the phenomenal cast and their performances, Seven Psychopaths would have easily been an annoying trite mess. Thankfully everyone pulls their weight perfectly playing neurotic freaks with amazing comedic timing and interaction. Walken has never been so perfect as the mild-mannered religious mentor of sorts to Billy and the usually fantastic Harrelson is nothing short of, well, fantastic.

McDonagh is a great talent with an interesting mind that stands out in Hollywood films. There’s no doubt that his struggles of writing and possibly alcoholism seeped its way into the script for Seven Psychopaths just as the events happening in Marty’s life find their way into his screenplay. McDonagh’s script is odd, a bit flawed but intriguingly unique and his cast of actors deliver their lines with humor and umph. Although I was a bit confused when Seven Psychopaths ended, the scenes and ideas kept circulating in my head for the next few hours. It’s rare for films to do that these days and McDonagh is more than capable of delivering a bad ass action packed film with metaphysical ideas and a heart.

At some points, Seven Psychopaths feels messy and unorganized like McDonagh had too many ideas spiraling in his head but was unsure how to successfully get them down. Other times it seems immaculate but as a whole it just doesn’t mesh as well I felt it should’ve to have received the praise it’s currently getting. That’s not to say Seven Psychopaths isn’t a great film because it is. It’s got quirky charm, humor, action, and heart, but it’s like the nerdy kid that’s chocked full of knowledge yet unsure of how to express himself clearly to others. Would I see Seven Psychopaths again? Probably, but my heart won’t be broken if I don’t. It’s not the first or last of its kind.

SEE IT. But you know whenever.

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