Seven Psychopaths: A Love Note To Movie Geeks   2 comments

“Gacy, you numbskull, what’d you kill him for?” – Ted Bundy
“I didn’t mean to!” – John Wayne Gacy

Top Line: Seven Psychopaths is a wonderfully violent screwball comedy of the first order.  It also one of those conspicuously clever movies that’s about itself being a movie, but for the most part isn’t annoying about it. 

Who (probably) should see this movie: People who liked In Bruges, Christopher Walken aficionados, and film geeks.  Definitely film geeks.

Who (probably) should not see this movie: People who didn’t like In Bruges, and anyone looking for a regular shoot ’em up gangster movie. 

Box Score:

Runtime: 1h:49m – Feels about right.  Drags a little toward the end, but it’s deliberate, so it’s not bad or anything.

Actual Start Time: Showtime + 20(!) Minutes

Friday Morning Demographics: ~10 people, almost all dudes.

MPAA: Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use

There’s some entertaining violence, and brief almost playfully obligatory boobs, but this movie is very good natured about everything.  There’s nothing terribly disturbing.   

Should Be Rated: PG-16

Three Stars:

  1. Sam Rockwell – Lead Psychopath: 
    Plays the delightfully batty dog borrowing lunatic who sets everything in motion with a nice balance between being in-movie crazy and winking at the camera.  Also gets in several well done venereal disease jokes, which is always a plus.
  2. Christopher Walken – Secondary Psychopath:
    Actually gets to play someone other than himself for once.  He’s still Walken, of course, but he gives a good, solid edge to a pacifist Quaker.
  3. Colin Farrell – Idealized Screenwriter:
    Once again, Martin McDonagh has managed to coax a good performance out of Farrell.  His part isn’t as deep or interesting as it was in In Bruges, but it’s pretty good and he doesn’t get overly twitchy or cutesy. 
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +2 (Solidly entertaining from start to finish)
  • +1 (XKCD made fun of it this morning, so people are paying attention)

Final Score: 4

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (Contains way too many self referential movie jokes for a respectable movie geek to not see it)

Final Score: 6

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • -5 (Doesn’t even try to pass)
  • +1 (Does have quite a few excellent, if minor, female characters)
  • +1 (Does so deliberately and mocks itself for it (See: Notes))

Final Score: 2

IMDb Sez:

Director:

Writer:

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 84% Top Critics: 72% Audience: 87%

Notes:

  • I’m not sure what’s with the lower score from “Top” critics.  Maybe they thought the movie didn’t parody itself enough, or did it too cutesy?  I dunno.  The other two ratings make much more sense. 
  • Fans of Boardwalk Empire will enjoy the opening scene with Arnold Rothstein and Jimmy Darmody. 
  • The movie maintains a healthy balance between sending itself up and delivering the foul mouthed gunplay that is the real reason everyone’s here. 
  • Colin Farrell plays your typically idealized screenwriter fantasy: handsome, charming (when he wants to be), hot girlfriend, cool alcohol problem, the whole schmear.  It’s one of the movie’s subtler self referential jokes.
  • Tom Waits does his usual acting thing where he sits there looking odd and creepy and then acts odder and creepier.  That you know it’s coming doesn’t make it any less fun to watch.
  • Bechdel Note: Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko may have been required to spend more time at the photo shoot for the poster than on set, so miniscule are their roles.  However, the movie makes a point near the end about how movies like this never give their female characters anything to do but get shot.  Does it still count as sexist if you’re being deliberately and self consciously sexist as a way to expose the sexism of others?  Again, I dunno. 
  • Related to the above, we know from the get go that the dog is going to be okay, because, as the movie itself points out, in this kind of film you can’t kill the animals, just the women.  Otherwise people would be upset.
  • Woody Harrelson somehow manages to keep maybe the weakest part in the movie from becoming too much of a cliche for even all this meta-snark to cover. 
  • I poked my head into the early showing of Atlas Shrugged II: The Middle Part on my way into Seven Psychopaths.  Word on the street was that they upgraded from Manos-level production to Puma Man since the first one.  If so, their money might (ironically) have been well spent, there were a few people in the theater.  

Bottom Line:

Seven Psychopaths lives up to its name; there are indeed seven of them, and they are all rather reckless with their lives and the lives of others.  That the whole thing is wrapped up in a Colin Farrell character who is also writing a movie called “Seven Psychopaths” could’ve easily led the movie down an overly serious path of infinite reflections and naval gazing (ahem, Adaptation), but McDonagh keeps things light and entertaining throughout. 

The movie may best be understood as a commentary on not only McDonagh’s first movie, In Bruges, but other films that play around in the “gunplay and black comedy” area.  The whole story is so ridiculous that he may have simply concluded that the only way to salvage any dignity out of it was by poking fun at himself for making it and us for watching it.  To that end, Seven Psychopaths strives above all for laughs, overt and subtle, and is that much better for doing so. 

With Walken and Farrell coming along for the ride, Sam Rockwell is the beating hart of the movie.  He gets plenty of opportunities to switch gears mid-scene (look I’m psycho!, now I’m charming!), and he pulls them off without it becoming cartoonish or expected.  Walken gets to play a more disciplined and determined man, and goes through the movie with a sense of detached bemusement that also doesn’t feel like pandering.  Farrell isn’t given much to do besides alternate between incredulous and scared, but he pulls of both and doesn’t become annoying despite being a walking cliche: the hip, cool, kickass writer of his generation.  That the whole thing is a gag certainly helps.

Ultimately, Seven Psychopaths is a movie by a film geek for other film geeks.  Conventions will be mocked and played with, but also executed well.  Jokes will be made at the expense of both the audience and the man behind the camera.  And above all, you’ll find yourself laughing at strange and terrible things, which is exactly what this kind of film is supposed to deliver. 

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Looper:

Identity Thief – Cute, topical comedy with Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.

Movie 43 – Could be entertaining.  Certainly the cast is promising, but there’s a reason they never actually made a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie

Flight – This looks pretty bad, though if it turns out to be a civil rights movie for alcoholics I could get behind it.  Also, it might be a mistake to show us the entire damned movie in the trailer.

Alex Cross – Madea will kill you.  Like Flight, suffers from “Let’s show everything in the trailer” syndrome. 

Lincoln – Still looks wretched, bordering on unwatchable.

Parker – You might as well call this movie Transporter 4, but it looks like a decent way to kill a couple of hours in the middle of January.  At least they got Statham an age appropriate female lead in Jennifer Lopez. 

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

2 responses to “Seven Psychopaths: A Love Note To Movie Geeks

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  1. This looks great. It’s out here in the UK in December. It amused me that you put a (!) next to “20 minutes”, over here about 25 minutes is average and a movie the other week hit 35 minutes. Insanity.

  2. Pingback: Alex Cross: « The Ann Arbor Review of Books

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