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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Seven Psychopaths (London Film Festival review)

Seven Psychopaths green light Colin Farrell Christophen Walken Sam Rockwell

I’m “biast” (pro): loved In Bruges, loved the trailer

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

False advertising! There’s way more than seven psychopaths here — I count as many as 11 or perhaps even 12 psychopaths. Then again, very little about this twisted lark of a meta movie is what you’d expect it to be, even if you’ve reveled in the genius that is writer-director Martin McDonagh’s previous film, In Bruges. This feels, in fact, very much like McDonagh’s direct response to what we can only imagine was the industry’s response to Bruges. For he has made a movie — bursting with equal parts exasperation, despair, cultural criticism, and black comedy — about how he doesn’t want to make the kind of movie that Hollywood surely would like him to make, surely courted him to make after the success of Bruges. (It was probably too much to expect that he could actually get Hollywood to back such a film: this is a British production.) For his protagonist is an Irish screenwriter in Los Angeles called Marty (Colin Farrell: Fright Night)… who’s writing a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths… and it keeps ending up being full of pointless, misogynistic violence even though Marty doesn’t “want it to be one more movie about guys with guns in their hands” and laments how Hollywood objectifies women and normalizes violence against them. In between bouts of Marty’s creative, alcoholic angst, he tries to crib ideas from his small-time-crook pals Billy (Sam Rockwell: The Sitter) and Hans (Christopher Walken: Balls of Fury), who have a good sideline going in kidnapping pampered pooches only to collect the rewards later offered by heartbroken dog owners. And that’s only three psychopaths so far — Marty is a little bit psychopathic, but perhaps only in a self-destructive way — or four, if you count Hollywood itself (which I think we should). McDonagh plays in wonderfully depraved ways with Hollywood depictions of violence and the expectations that we’ve come to hold because of those tropes, but this is more anti-action movie than anything else, a Moebius strip of a creative therapy session that folds in on itself and comes full, twisted circle by the time it has exhausted itself, in gasps-of-laughter fashion. Rockwell and Walken — plus Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games) as another psychopath — are in fine form doing their usual kooky schtick, which works even better with McDonagh’s snappy, thinky dialogue. But once again, as with Bruges, the most delightful thing here is Farrell. McDonagh so far is the only filmmaker who has realized that Farrell is funny, and in a bitter, gloomy, hilariously melancholy way. So very Irish… but so very not Hollywood.

viewed during the 56th BFI London Film Festival

US/Canada release date: Oct 12 2012 | UK release date: Dec 5 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated BCC (contains bloody cultural criticism)
MPAA: rated R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong bloody violence and very strong language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes
  • Jurgan

    I’ve been looking forward to this one, but your review surprised me.  You make this sound like Adaptation.  That’s not a bad thing.

  • It does bear some similarites to Adaptation.

  • Of all the Walken movies you had to link to, you chose Balls of Fury?  I mean, okay, he’s the only reason to see that movie, but why not link to The Rundown or Pulp Fiction or Catch Me If You Can?  You could have linked to the youtube video of “Asian People Impersonating The Walken” and make better sense…

  • FormerlyKnownAsBill

    i love ‘in bruges’ so much; can’t wait to see this one. that cast is out of control good.

  • Karl Morton IV

    I wish I could skywrite your observation that Colin Farrell can be funny over Hollywood. I swear one can FEEL him straining at the bit in “Fright Night” and “Total Recall” – but, then, the latter didn’t know what to do with Bryan Cranston either, did it?

    Christopher Walken’s cravat scene might be my new favorite (among many, obviously) of his.

  • Killara29

    I liked it. Colin Farrel should only make movies with McDonagh though.

  • RogerBW

    Okay… that’s a whole meta level I wasn’t expecting. On the list…

  • Standard practice is the link to the most recent review she’s done featuring them.

    I’m just surprised that she hasn’t reviewed a movie with Walken since Balls of Fury. 

  • What Jonathan Roth said. I link to the most recent review or reviews of a work someone is connected to. That’s it. There is no commentary in those links, just a hope that it might encourage readers to stick around. It’s good for SEO, too, apparently.

  • His only more recent film I’ve seen is Dark Horse. Which I haven’t reviewed yet. But it’s a red light, so it wouldn’t be a positive review anyway.

    Walken actually hasn’t done much of significance in recent years.

  • CB


    For his protagonist is [snip] writing a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths…
    and it keeps ending up being full of pointless, misogynistic violence
    even though Marty doesn’t “want it to be one more movie about guys with
    guns in their hands” and laments how Hollywood objectifies women and
    normalizes violence against them.

    And does this mean that the movie itself ends up being full of pointless, misogynistic violence that’s therefore supposed to be “ironic”?  

  • mir

    Adaptation was the movie I was talking about as I left the theater after seeing Seven Psychopaths. :)

  • I don’t think it is, no.

  • 3eyes

    I’d say Farrell is funny (tongue-in-cheek) in Tigerland, Phone Booth, and Intermezzo. I agree with you that Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with him.

  • 2eyes

    correction : Intermission.

  • I found this film awful…however I love In Bruges…Colin Farrell is kind of brilliant in some films and awful in others. Speaking as an Irish person (born in same hospital as Colin ha ha) I think he needs to pick his roles better. He’s great in True Detective…I could just sit looking at his mournful face. ☺

  • Oh, wait till you see *The Lobster* later this year. Farrell is amazing and weird in it.

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