While many films stand the test of time, others fade into obscurity. Whether this happens over a period of years or almost instantly upon a film’s release, one thing is clear: Seven Psychopaths has slipped through the cracks of our collective memory to join the ranks of the Films That Time Forgot.
Despite an all-star cast and a positive critical reception, Seven Psychopaths is not often talked about. Granted, it’s not the most memorable film, but the reasons for this are relatively complex and ultimately inconsequential. When all is said and done, it’s a brilliantly written and thoroughly well-made film, and deserves better than to have passed into obscurity.
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Seven Psychopaths follows Marty, an Irish screenwriter living in Los Angeles, as he struggles to write his latest screenplay, titled “Seven Psychopaths“. Colin Farrell stars as Marty, with Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, and Olga Kurylenko also starring. The film’s story concerns Marty inadvertently finding himself at odds with a violent criminal (Harrelson) after his friends (Rockwell and Walken) kidnap his dog.
The film is largely a meta commentary on the writing process and on cinema’s approach to violence. As Marty’s script comes to reflect his increasingly unhinged experiences, the film takes on a fairy tale quality, making it a mesmerizing (and only slightly baffling) piece of storytelling. However, though critics generally liked it and praised its writing, directing, and acting, Seven Psychopaths remains a somewhat forgotten movie within McDonagh’s filmography.
Seven Psychopaths’ Gleeful Violence And Carefully Written Story Make It Both Brilliant & Forgettable
McDonagh is able to derive a great deal of comedy from his examination of a classic screenwriter’s conundrum: Marty wants to honor the genre by completely subverting it. There’s an inherent paradox at the very core of the film that McDonagh knows to tap, even as its extreme violence continues to unfold around his characters. Marty, Bill, and Hans represent both the creators and the audience; they aspire to create something great, but formula and circumstance keep getting in their way.
In this is Seven Psychopaths‘ greatest problem. It’s brilliant and its unique, but it’s also subtly mind-bending. As the film wears on, the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur, and by the end, it’s no entirely clear where the characters’ fantasy ends and McDonagh’s own story begins. This is both its best and worst quality, as it helps the film to stand apart while simultaneously pushing away much of the audience that would have given it the widespread popularity it deserves.
Ultimately, Seven Psychopaths is an excellent film. It boasts masterful performances from its central cast, with Walken’s mildly self-aware creepiness offsetting Rockwell’s lightly comedic insanity and Farrell’s simple incredulity. McDonagh’s writing and direction make it a film for those who love the art of storytelling, taking the audience on a journey that’s just confusing enough to be as forgettable as it is unique.
Summary: Seven Psychopaths is a deftly crafted story that attempts to both cater to and satirize Hollywood’s expectations of the film industry. It may not come off as cutting or as engaging as was likely hoped, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and consistently entertaining watch.
Highlight: The self-aware march toward a comedically-charged but undeniably tense final showdown is an excellent payoff, but largely, Walken’s understated performance steals the show.