The first scene in Seven Psychopaths speaks to what this film is about, and sets the stage for what’s to come. Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg – both recognizable thugs from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire – are two hitmen awaiting the arrival of a female that they are about to whack. They have a sharp-tongued, Pulp Fiction-esque conversation about killing – alluding to movies such as The Godfather – as they both over-analyze their upcoming situation. Suddenly and without much warning, there is some abrupt violence.
And with that, in a nutshell, we have the essence of Seven Psycopaths: A lot of clever talk and some senseless graphic violence, all without a hint of purpose.
If only the rest of the film was as short, it may have been bearable. Stretched out over 109 minutes though, Seven Psychopaths really tests the audience’s patience as it marches along, over-confident and self-aware. There’s nothing more uncool than a movie that thinks it is so cool.
Colin Farrell is Marty, a screenwriter working on a screenplay that just so happens to be called Seven Psycopaths. His buddy Billy (Sam Rockwell) is hapless, but wants to help with the writing. Much of the film deals with them coming up with ideas for who the seven psychopaths are. Marty seems to be struggling with some of these characters, who are not fully fleshed out.
The movie that we are watching is basically the screenplay that they are working on. Perhaps as an unintended consequence, the movie reflects the same half-ideas and dead-ends as their screenplay.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t some promise. Writer/Director Martin McDonagh definitely caught Hollywood’s attention with 2008’s In Bruges, a decent film that showed off McDonagh’s talent for witty dialogue. Seven Psychopaths does have some funny moments, but it is so intent on being original that it ends up feeling like every other crime/comedy we’ve ever seen.
Somewhere in here, is a plot that involves Christopher Walken as a dog kidnapper, who steals dogs and then returns them for the reward. When a stolen Shih Tzu turns out to be the best friend of a mobster played by Woody Harrelson, Harrelson’s character sets out for revenge and to recover his doggie.
Nothing connects, nothing works and ultimately nobody will end up caring what happens or how things turn out. Seven Psychopaths takes us into the mind of a screenwriter trying desperately to not fall victim to the conventions of his intended genre. It’s nearly criminal that such a self-aware movie can be so oblivious to its own short-comings. Surely, McDonagh didn’t set out to write a clichéd mob movie. But by not trying to write one, he’s come up with one of the worst to date.
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Run Time: 1 hour 49 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson
Written & Directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges)
Opens locally on Friday, October 12th, 2012 (check for show times).
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