Movie Review: Seven Psychopaths

Stars: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Olga Kurlenko, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits

Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use , Running time 109 minutes, Comedy/Crime

Compare to: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), The Ladykillers (2004)

Following in the tradition of Guy Ritchie movies and maybe even Martin Scorcese, Martin McDonagh sets us up for a film that, at first glance, seems like any other dark comedy out there; crude, violent, nobody’s a good guy, that kind of thing. Though the final result isn’t as easy to categorize. While a dark comedy would continually revolve around jokes of a serious nature (kidnapping, violence, death, etc.), Psychopaths has no qualms about quickly going off the deep end to tell us stories of subjects they aren’t trying to make jokes of.

By the time the credits roll, how you may feel about the movie may depend on how open minded you are about it in the first place.

Marty is struggling to finish his newest screenplay. He’s actually struggling to even start. He knows what he wants the title to be, but that’s it. Thankfully, his friend Billy and his partner-in-crime Hans are around to give Marty plenty of inspiration. They’ve been in the business of kidnapping dogs and returning them to their owners for the reward money. The problem is that they’ve just kidnapped a shih-tzu that belongs to a volatile gangster who will do anything and kill anyone to get her back.

A major aspect of this movie is the jumpy pace in which the story is told. The narrative is the kind that doesn’t mind hopping back and forth between our story and one that a character is telling. It doesn’t mind switching back to those stories in mid-sentence of another character in a scene much later down the line. It can be confusing but it doesn’t keep it from being interesting.

Something I’m happy to tell you about before you see the movie so as to possibly prepare you for, is that this is not a straight forward comedy; there is a lot of comedy in it, on purpose or by proxy, but much of the movie is played for dramatic effect rather than laughs. It’s good if you know what you’re getting into, but many viewers might find it misleading or even distasteful depending on how you look at it. Although I’m not sure who is to question for this. When films have a harder time being categorized as Comedy or Action if there’s more than meets the eye, they may be marketed as something much simpler than they are, as is the case with Psychopaths possibly because they saw no other way to sell. In cases like these, the movie can have a poor box office performance (Office Space was a victim of this) or jut having casual audience members leaving slightly off kilter.

But in all of this, don’t think the majority of what’s supposed to be funny isn’t- because it is. Christopher Walken’s portrayal of Hans the dog-napper is one that’s so naturalistic and hilarious at the same time, I wondered if he was reciting lines or coming up with his dialogue on his own thinking the camera wasn’t running. Hans seems more of a combination of old school Walken, somber and near scary, and the newer Walken most people are familiar with these days; comedic in his absolute weirdness. Playing the role here seems effortless for him.

Sam Rockwell is great too, almost stealing the show entirely if not for Walken. It would be easier of a time sorting out who was “better” than who if it weren’t for the fact that every character is likable in their own way while going out of their way to do things to make you hate them at some point. But Rockwell’s numbskulled enthusiasm to his plans and legitimate desire to help his friend make him perhaps the most likely character you’ll latch onto as it’s his stupidity that drives the story. This might also make you feel like you hate. It’s complicated.

I’m still on the fence about Seven Psychopaths. I was really looking forward to this one and disappointment is far from how I feel. Rather, the train took me to a different destination than I thought I was going to. I’m willing to watch it again to see what a repeat viewing will do for me, knowing the tone this time around rather than jumping in and getting something (almost) completely unexpected. If you’re the type to watch a violent gangster comedy in the first place, by all means have at this one. If you’re looking for something that doesn’t ever slow down, you may want to look somewhere else.

Grade: B

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