No, Seven Psychopaths is not a horror movie. But it is a great one. And I feel comfortable reviewing it on this site because it has copious gore, including a protracted serial killer segment that involves the Zodiac killer, and lots of bunnies. With more (and better) kills than most slasher films, you guys won’t be disappointed. I feel awkward opening the review this way, like some sort of sleazy guy talking up the physical attributes of a woman to a friend I’ve set her up with, but in a crowded horror weekend I need to get my foot in the door. And, of course, there’s a ton of other stuff to recommend.
While Seven Psychopaths isn’t as touching as writer/director Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, it’s an immediately entertaining high energy romp through a crime world seemingly frozen in time since 1996. Colin Farrell plays Marty as a semi-surrogate for McDonagh, an alcoholic screenwriter stuck on his new script. Sam Rockwell is his best friend Billy, a dog kidnapper with a palpable urge to help his buddy out of a rut. Christopher Walken is… well I suppose it’s best if I let you discover the character framework of the film on your own, since that’s one of the film’s many joys.
As you’ve been informed by the marketing campaign, they get on the bad side of gangster boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson) via the deeply misguided kidnapping of his beloved Shih Tzu. The first half of the film takes place in a version of LA I haven’t seen onscreen in years, an immediately-post Pulp Fiction rendering of the town. From the very opening scene the film is strangely – and intentionally – dated. I was discussing the film with my friend Simon and I think he nailed the aesthetic (and perhaps the creative impetus) on the head, “Like somewhere in Ireland, a young McDonagh was watching ‘Suicide Kings’, ‘Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead’ and ‘Two Days In The Valley’ and thinking, well, this kind of sucks, but it would be kind of cool if…”
That “if”, of course, is the sum total of liberties McDonagh has taken with these tropes in order to make them feel fresh and relatable again. The film eventually becomes something of a spiritual quest as our heroes embark on a journey to Joshua Tree in order to seek refuge. Throughout all of this, Marty is still wrestling with his script, also entitled ‘Seven Psychopaths. Billy and Walken’s Hans chip in with ideas, each note of their reflecting where they are in their lives. Billy is begging Marty to pile on the carnage (which is gloriously visualized), even though Marty’s shying away from the violence of his own work. Hans, meanwhile, is searching for threads of meaning in Marty’s work and inserting his own where there are none to be found. The whole film almost plays like a hyper violent edition of Adaptation or Bullets Over Broadway.
If you like to peer deep into your films, Seven Psychopaths offers a lot to chew on. But not at the expense of its immediacy. It’s alternately fun, broad, frightening, tragic, gory and hilarious. It truly soars along and takes detours I would have never expected. It’s a film I can’t imagine anyone regretting seeing, even you dear horror fiend.