Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Seven Psychopaths”

Hm… what can I say about the movie “Seven Psychopaths?”

Well, first, I’m going to link you to a trailer. I think I should start doing that from now on with these things, actually. Seems like a good idea.

Anyway, this movie was… unique. Interesting. Not bad, but perhaps a bit… confusing and disjointed, or so it seemed. I consider it to be a very unique film experience. Allow me to explain.

The film follows a struggling (with writing and alcohol) screenwriter, Marty (Colin Farrell), on a deadline for a new screenplay for which he has a title, “Seven Psychopaths,” but no story. He has an idea for one psychopath, but that’s about it. His actor friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) turns him onto the story of a serial killer in town, the Jack of Diamonds killer, who goes around killing mid- to high-level mafia underlings and leaving a Jack of Diamonds behind. So, with that inspiration, and the story about a Quaker who psychologically tortures the man that raped and murdered his daughter (told to him by Billy, we find out), Marty’s script seems to be moving forward.

Meanwhile, Billy and his odd friend Hans (Christopher Walken) are forming a small business together… kidnapping dogs and returning them days later for a reward. Not very lucrative, nor very moral, but it’s what they do. Hans takes the money to his cancer-ridden wife Myra (Linda Bright Clay) when he visits her. The system seems to work well enough… until Billy steals a Shih Tzu owned by an EXTREMELY attached and EXTREMELY violent gangster, Charlie (Woody Harrelson).

Now, the basic plot after this is Marty continues trying to write his screenplay while all three of them, now being chased down by Charlie, attempt to avoid ghastly murder due to the theft of the dog. During this time, we get interesting little vignettes about the psychopaths as they’re being fleshed out in Marty’s script, usually based off of real life, such as the story of the serial killer killing couple, Zachariah (Tom Waits) and Maggie (Amanda Warren). Also during this time, both Billy and Hans throw in their own personal suggestions on how to improve the script. This process leads to a rather interesting meta factor to the movie. As the film plays out, the characters end up actually living the suggestions for the script, going to the desert and talking about life among other things.

The movie has some truly humorous moments, often at the hands of Rockwell’s spastic and over-the-top Billy. Not Kramer levels, mind, just kind of enthusiastic and ridiculous. The movie also has many a gruesome part, particularly in the telling of some of the stories. The tale of the psychopathic Quaker ends with a scene nearly straight out of “Sweeney Todd.”

Of course, some of that violence is played for laughs. When Billy suggests his over-the-top gun-slinging, firefighting ending for Marty’s film, the violence is gory and idiotic, in an intentional and hilarious fashion. There’s at least one head exploding, always fun to laugh at when done right.

The movie seems fractured and confusing, and yet, when you think on it and watch the whole thing, it’s really not. Which somehow almost makes it more confusing to me. But whether it’s confusing or not, it is a unique film and a rather interesting one. I never lost interest in it. And the journey to discover the humanity behind psychopathy, the reasons for some of the things these people do, is very interesting. The theft of the Shih Tzu is always driving the characters, but the movie still doesn’t really seem like it’s actually about that. It’s about people, and about darkness.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is actually the inclusion of Waits as the rabbit-carrying Zachariah. He’s one of the outside characters, not really contributing to the films meta nature. However, I like seeing him portray a psychopath, particularly after I saw an interview with him from 1979 that people have used to suggest his mannerisms were perhaps used by Heath Ledger as inspiration for the Joker, who is potentially the ultimate psychopath. Watching that interview, it’s hard to disagree.

The film’s ending is an extremely well done, semi-emotional wrap up to the entire jumble-yet-not-jumble of story earlier, and there is some good acting from many in the film, my favorites probably being Rockwell and Walken. There is a lot of violence, some nudity and a lot of swearing, if those things turn you off of a movie. I’d say it’s worth a watch, particularly if you like storytelling that lingers and lets you think, while never slowing too much. Also, it’s written and directed by Martin McDonagh of “In Bruges,” if that means anything to you.

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One thought on “Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Seven Psychopaths”

  1. […] know in an edit if that’s true, because, frankly? Out of the three movies I saw this weekend (“Seven Psychopaths” and “Argo” being the others), this is the movie I most want to go back and watch […]

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