Seven Psychopaths * *

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Director: Martin McDonagh.
Screenplay: Martin McDonagh.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Zeljko Ivanek, Harry Dean Stanton, Gabourey Sidibe, Kevin Corrigan, Long Nguyen, Brendan Sexton III, Linda Bright Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Pitt.

When “In Bruges” was released in 2008 it marked the emergence of Martin McDonagh, a filmmaker that was able to combine a dark crime drama with a real sense for the off-beat and provide unabashed politically incorrect humour. I wasn’t exactly convinced in it’s entirety but it offered something fresh and exciting. The same could be said for McDonagh’s second feature, only this time it’s sense for the off-beat is way off course and it’s elaborate crime yarn, lacks coherence.

Marty (Colin Farrell), has been working for while on a Hollywood screenplay called ‘Seven Psychopaths‘ but he hasn’t got past the first page and has developed a reliance on alcohol to see him through it. His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) is eager to help, so gives him anecdotes on real psychopaths that he’s aware of. Some of which, include crazed gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson) who loves his little Shih-Tzu dog, Bonny. It’s only when Billy and his dognapper friend Hans (Christopher Walken) decide to steal Bonny, that Marty finds himself in all sorts of trouble – and inspiration.

The film sets it’s stall up well, as we are introduced to Martin, a struggling, Irish, alcoholic writer with absolutely no creative spark whatsoever. It’s a self-referential premise that has been done before – most notably by the Coen brothers when they wrote “Barton Fink” as a result of writer’s block in trying to finish “Miller’s Crossing“. Only, McDonagh is not a Coen, nor is he a Quentin Tarantino – who he obviously fancies himself as. Those filmmakers have made strong career’s from combining crime and comedy but after this sophomore effort, McDonagh doesn’t match those aforementioned auteur’s of cinema. “In Bruges” was so well received that this film gathered a lot of anticipation and it even allowed McDonagh to assemble a very impressive cast. It had all the ingredients for being another darkly humorous endeavour. Dark it may be, but it’s seriously lacking in the humour department. While I was watching this, I had the feeling that something was just around the corner but when that corner was turned, there was still a vacantness. The jokes were forced and most dialogue and scenes were shoehorned in such a way that it was forcing laughs rather than earning them.
On the positive side, it had plenty of style and the performances, for the most part, were great; Farrell, Harrelson and especially, Rockwell and Walken, all seem to be having fun. There’s also fine support by Tom Waits but the belief that this ensemble have in the material is squandered as McDonagh has no idea what he’s doing. The story-within-a-story concept is nothing original but if tackled properly, it can be a very fulfilling journey and Charlie Kaufman’s “Adaptation” is a prime example of how it should be done. This, however, is an example of how it shouldn’t.

This is a wasted opportunity to create something really good. It’s a clever idea and it could be said that the movie is one big in-joke. Although I’m aware of this, it’s still the very incoherent and lazily written crime yarn that it proclaims to be against.
It thinks it’s smarter and funnier than it actually is and goes down as the biggest disappointment of the year.

Mark Walker

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47 Responses to “Seven Psychopaths * *”

  1. It comes out Tuesday out here and I’m not gonna lie… I’m sadden by this review! I have such high hopes. Still going to give it a watch though. Great review as always Mark.

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    • Don’t be saddened man. It would seem that I’m in the minority on this one. Many loved it but it just didn’t do it for me. It came across a bit desperate and I rarely laughed at all. This is normally the type of genre that I love as well but sadly not this time.

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  2. Being aware of it’s flaws, and there are many, I had to give it a positive review just for Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and the smaller ‘stories’ within a larger flawed story. The movie really died out for me once they headed to the desert though.

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  3. Good one Mucker! I still want to check it when it comes around here – for free : )

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    • It’s alright of it’s free man. I’d watch anything for free but I was sorely disappointed in this one. Many won’t be though, I can still see it’s appeal. I just expected more.

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  4. It was actually one of my biggest surprises of the year! I didn’t really know what to expect going into it but I really enjoyed it. I do agree that it thinks its cleverer than it actually is in parts but I thought the performances were superb, Rockwell and Walken in particular. I kind of put the whole scatterbrain plot down as a metaphor for writing a script, in that it jumps all over the place with characters and bits of plot, but maybe that’s just me making excuses for bad writing!

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    • I’d agree on the performances Chris and it definitely had style but for what was passed as a satirical look to writing in Hollywood still turned out to be the very dross that it proposed to send up. The laughs were few and far between and when any did any arrive, they were stretched to breaking point. I expected more man. Much more.

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  5. I was thinking about checking this out as the premises reminded me of Adaptation and, like you said before, Barton Fink, but decided not to. I know some people who really like this film and others who don’t. Nice review.

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    • In all honesty I love the concept but it wasn’t delivered a well as it could be here. I’ve seen more positive reviews than negative on this and, unfortunately, I’m in the latter camp.

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  6. Harsh words here Mark!! Really looking forward to this, just hope it hits home with me more than it did you. πŸ™‚

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    • I know man. Believe me, I wanted to like it and expected to but it left me with nothing. I actually felt like I’d my time. This could be an “Anchorman” moment between us again, though. You might really take to this. I didn’t, but wanted to.

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  7. ah well Still may take a look on DVD. In Bruges was very very good. I have to clearly reserve judgement until I too have seen it, but a very nice review my man, still enough positive in there to not completely put me off, so a fair and balanced critique.

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    • I enjoyed In Bruges quite a bit Kevin and expected more of the same here but it just didn’t cut it. I actually knew I was supposed to be laughing (the jokes were that forced) but all it did was make me hate it all the more. Subtlety is certainly not it’s strong point but the performances and high calibre cast keep you watching.

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  8. I stayed away from this one. I gave it some consideration but it never looked like something that would be up my alley. You review confirms that! πŸ™‚

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  9. This movie was great and kept me watching the whole time. I didn’t feel much for these characters; as much as I felt for the ones in In Bruges, but I still had a fun time listening to everybody speak this snappy dialogue out. Good review Mark.

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  10. Awww bummer! I was quite looking forward to this because I really like In Bruges. It’s too bad McDonagh couldn’t follow that up with an equally compelling and witty film. It’s never good when the jokes are forced. Doing a story-within-a-story plot is tricky, but you’re right Mark, if it’s done well like in Adaptation it can work to great effect.

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    • Of course, this is only my opinion Ruth. Many other reviews have been very positive but I thought it was absolutely woeful. It it wasn’t for the actors and it’s good sense of style, I’d have rated this even lower.

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      • I trust your judgment, Mark. I wasn’t wowed by the trailer despite the cast. To me, In Bruges has the intriguing dynamic between the two main characters that I don’t see here, this one feels a bit more, what’s the word, commercial.

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      • Thanks Ruth. It was the cast that caught my eye as well. In fairness, they put in good performances but it’s the material that’s poor. It really has to be seen to be believed just how dreadful this is.

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  11. I’m saddened to hear this too. I was looking forward to this. :-/

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  12. I completely agree with your review. I was very disappointed with this movie, it was one of my most anticipated and it turned out to be such a mess. It wasn’t funny except for few moments and the script was all over the place. Such a waste of great cast.

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    • Thanks Sati, it’s finally great to hear that someone else agrees with me here. It was a bit of a mess and I was actually shocked, how little humour it actually had. It seriously verged on being embarrassingly bad.

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  13. Wow. Quite a few of my film friends (not me) put this in their Top 10 for the entire year.

    But speaking of incoherence, even the very title is a misnomer because there are really only six psychopaths. One (Billy) gets counted twice. Plus they’re not the same lunatics represented on the poster. For example, where is the Vietnamese priest?

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    • I’m actually shocked how many people liked this Mark. I thought I was generous by giving it 2 stars.

      Your points are spot on. It doesn’t pay attention in a lot of places and came across as either lazy or really badly written. For a mainstream film with a cast like this, I think the audience deserve more respect. I was insulted by how poor it was.

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  14. What a shame. I still haven’t got around to seeing this yet but as a big fan of In Brudges…which surprised me in that it seemed to come out of nowhere…I was definitely looking forward to checking Seven Psychopaths out. The lukewarm reviews aren’t so thrilling…probably a reason I haven’t rushed out to see it yet.

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    • I was the same Dan. I enjoyed “In Bruges” quite a bit. I also loved “The Guard” which was directed by the brother of this film. If you haven’t seen that, you should it check it out. It’s brilliant. As a result of enjoying them both, I too was looking forward to this but it let me down massively.

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  15. Oh dear, a shame this isn’t worth seeing….Thanks for review, Mark – I won’t waste my time watching it!

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    • I wouldn’t expect you to take my word as absolute Georgina but I did enjoy In Bruges and this was nowhere near a good. Give it a look though. You never know, you might be one of the ones who like it. There are quite a few around.

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  16. ray brayne Says:

    Bravo! One of your boldest reviews. You mentioned quite a few good films and writers that this film should not be compared to, the Coens, Charlie Kaufman, “Barton Fink” and “Adaptation”. Even “In Bruges”. I’ll say it cuse’ you’re much too polite. This film Sucked! I thought and held hope that after they advertised for “Psychopaths” and Tom Waits showed up, that the movie would finally get going. Nope. Just went nowhere fast. Totally flat. I know I’m being harsh, but I bet you’ll agree.

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    • I agree entirely Ray. Like I mention in the comments, I’m being generous giving this 2 stars. I seriously considered giving it less as it was absolutely woeful. It had the style and the performances (strived) to keep it afloat but ultimately, it was an mess and insultingly so.

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  17. Funny how a movie like this will attract so many people if for no other reason than the incredible cast – that and the premise of a bunch of charismatic crazies shooting their way in and out of eternity, one more chance to see our favorite hitmen and hired thugs bumping into one another for the little moments of gold amid all the flack and slag you gotta push to the side. This is definitely the sort of film you have to let your guard down on, make forgiveness for the little things like plot holes and cliches, the quick and tidy resolutions to otherwise more tangled situations but then again you’re supposed to have a good time. Your usual solid coverage, nice to see you slap it around a bit for good measure. Always a good read, glad for the investment, reminds me I should visit more often. cheers-0

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    • Thanks a lot Rory. I couldn’t resist slapping this around a bit for good measure. I was bitterly disappointed in it. This was one of the films I was most looking forward to but it just didn’t cut it for. Glad to see you stopping man. Cheers.

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  18. I appreciate this honest, balanced review. It seems that I liked In Bruges more than you did, so maybe it will be the same with this film. Nevertheless, based on all the reviews I’ve read, I’m keeping my expectations modest.

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    • Thanks Steph. I did like “In Bruges” and expected more of the same here but this was rather poor. You should check out “The Guard” if you haven’t seen that, I liked that even more than “In Bruges”.

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  19. Great post, Marky! I’ll try to check this one out soon and see where I stand. It’s proved very divisive so far.

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  20. Sorry to hear this didnt connect with you Mark. I laughed my ass off… I found a lot of it really really funny. So… agree to disagree here I guess, brother! πŸ˜€

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    • Definitely agree to disagree here man. LOL. This didn’t do anything for me at all. I kept waiting for a good laugh but it just never happened. I was sooo disappointed. 😦

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  21. Chris Walker Says:

    When I first read this review I was reluctant to accept it was a bad film, because I was really looking forward to it after watching “In Bruges”. After watching it I agree with you; I found the first third to be interesting and funny after that it I found it boring and lethargic. Your review is accurate.

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    • Cheers Chris. Yep, I was pretty disappointed in this one. I liked In Bruges but this was no where near as good. I thought it was a bit of a mess, to be honest. Such a good cast and sense of style but the story was absolute garbage and I didn’t care much for it’s humour either.

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  22. An honest reviewer – well done. My thoughts on his movie were very similar as was my review at the time. I was perplexed by the number of great reviews this one garnered by people obviously awed by the cast but it was abysmal writing and very inept. There was not a single laugh to be had.

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    • Thank you Sarah. I couldn’t agree more. It was perplexing how many people liked this film. I thought it was an absolute mess and I must have laughed twice, maybe three times, tops.

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