Seven Psychopaths (R)

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Review byMatthew Turner26/10/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Writer/director Martin McDonagh's follow-up to In Bruges is something of a mixed bag; the performances are superb and the dialogue is often hilarious, but the script is both all over the place and not nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), Seven Psychopaths stars Colin Farrell as Marty, a booze-soaked and creatively blocked Hollywood screenwriter who's just been thrown out by his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish). Marty ends up crashing with his ne'er-do-well friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), who's running a dog kidnapping scam with old timer Hans (Christopher Walken), but the three men are drawn into a whole mess of trouble when Billy and Hans kidnap a beloved shih tzu (Bonny as Bonny) belonging to unhinged crime boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson).

The gimmick of the film is that Billy is continually trying to persuade Marty to let him collaborate on the screenplay he's supposed to be working on, titled – surprise, surprise – Seven Psychopaths, so there are constant diversions into other psychopath-related stories told by the characters, whether fictional (a vengeance-seeking Vietnamese priest-turned-assassin, played by Long Nguyen) or purported flashback (Tom Waits as a serial killer-killing serial killer; Harry Dean Stanton as a sinister Quaker).

The Good
The performances are extremely entertaining: Rockwell is the stand-out, delivering a lively, off-the-wall turn that essentially gives the movie its only real energy – there's a definite sense that the film would be lost without him. Walken is equally good (his pronunciation of ‘hallucinogens almost worth the price of admission alone) and there's strong comic support from Harrelson, though Farrell, consigned to the straight role, feels a little reined-in by comparison.

The Bad
The dialogue is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and the script is packed with quotable one-liners, some of which are certain to end up on t-shirts worn by hipsters. The problem is that both the plot and the structure of the film are all over the place and the supposedly clever meta-fictional aspects of the film (i.e. the idea that they are knowingly writing the movie as they go along – ‘This movie ends the way I say it ends’) quickly become irritating, not least because the characters' in-built criticisms of ‘Seven Psychopaths’ (Marty says he wants the second half of the film to be just people talking, Billy complains that that's a terrible idea and he's right) are largely spot-on.

On top of that, there are some character moments that are either frustratingly inconsistent or ignored completely, while the women are almost insultingly underwritten (another meta joke that completely backfires).

Worth seeing?
Seven Psychopaths is worth seeing for the performances and the dialogue (both of which are very funny) but the film isn't nearly as clever as it thinks it is and the overall result is mildly disappointing.

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Content updated: 20/01/2020 20:15

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