Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Seven Psychopaths

(2012)

Pretty mixed feelings about this one. It’s a dark comedy, and I got some very good laughs. Quite a few, actually. But it was so aware of itself, so self-referential … and yet, that was a big part of the joke … as I said, I’m conflicted.

A rather normal guy (Colin Farrell) is writing a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths. But all he has is the title, and one psychopath, so he’s looking for more. Little does he know that he is already friends with two of them. Christopher Walken (who can play a psychopath in his sleep) is in this case a pretty reasonable guy, whose beloved wife is in the hospital with cancer. And Sam Rockwell has a scam where he kidnaps dogs, waits until the owner posts a reward, and then “finds” the dog and returns it to the owner. Only this time he has kidnapped the Shih-Tzu belonging to the biggest psychopath of them all, Woody Harrelson, a crime boss. Woody really loves little Bonny, perhaps the only living being he has ever loved, and is willing to kill any number of people to get her back. And so the killing begins, with poor Colin in the middle.

At about the mid-point in the movie, the three are in a car together, on the run, and still talking about the movie. One of them suggests the characters should go out into the desert and sit around talking about morality and shit like that, and have no final shoot-out in the end. Because the first half was so bloody. And the first half of this movie is bloody, and funny at the same time. At the very least (if you don’t find exploding head shots funny), it’s startling.

I’d already suspected it, but it was here I knew that the script they were writing was the movie I was watching, more or less, but still subject to re-writes. And they do go out in the desert, and they do talk, but Sam insists that there be a shoot-out at the end, or it wouldn’t be much of a movie. The others resist, but Sam does something that guarantees a shoot-out, which we get. Several of them, in fact, none of them the sort that you’ve seen over and over.

So just what is my problem with it? Can I complain because the movie is so self-aware, so into itself? Not exactly, I like imaginative ways of telling stories. Is this called “deconstruction?” I don’t know. It’s just that, as I was watching, I felt a slight annoyance. But you know what? As I’m writing about it, I like it better and better. In fact, though I don’t use a star system in these reviews, I think I just added a star retrospectively, which is funny in itself, isn’t it? Like I’m re-writing my own review, or changing the ending …

The writer/director is Martin McDonagh, whose previous movie was In Bruges, which I thought was one of the best films of 2008. This one isn’t quite in that league, but I’ll look at his next one.

(BTW: Do not stop the DVD when the credits start to roll. It ain’t over. Earlier, one of the psychopaths considered for the story told of his and his wife’s crusade to kill serial killers. They become serial killer killers. We see several of their victims and their gruesome ends, including an old man identified as the Zodiac. It’s pretty funny. If you like to see serial killers burned alive.)