‘Seven Psychopaths’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 4:10 am,

Colin Farrell Sam Rockwell Christopher Walken Seven Psychopaths Seven Psychopaths Review

Seven Psychopaths is a smart and well-executed dark comedy full of over-the-top violence and intriguing rumination on human nature and the joy of killing.

In 2008, writer/director/producer Martin McDonagh released In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes. Despite an underwhelming box office performance, the film found success among critics and as a cult favorite after its home format release. Four years later and McDonagh is back, once again teaming with Colin Farrell, for another black-dramedy, Seven Psychopaths.

McDonagh is aided in his efforts this round by an enormous ensemble cast that includes (in addition to Farrell) Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Christopher Walken, Harry Dean Stanton, Woody Harrelson, and Gabourey Sidibe, among others. Does Seven Psychopaths offer a movie experience that will be appealing to In Bruges faithfuls as well as casual moviegoers – so that the fan-favorite director can earn solid box office profits in addition to critical acclaim?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. While Seven Psychopaths retains the same ultra-violent dark-comedy approach of In Bruges, the cast of familiar actors, Los Angeles setting, not to mention the central dog-napping set-up, positions McDonagh’s latest film for greater visibility this round – without undercutting the strength of his writing or storytelling. In Bruges fans who were worried that the sizable cast, not to mention the tense departure of Mickey Rourke and last minute casting of Harrelson, might have convoluted McDonagh’s final product can rest easy. In many ways, Seven Psychopaths is a step up for the director – as he attempts to tackle larger questions about life, death, and psychopaths.

Woody Harrelson Zeljko Ivanek Seven Psychopaths Seven Psychopaths Review

Zeljko Ivanek and Woody Harrelson in ‘Seven Psychopaths’

This time around Farrell is playing a down-on-his-luck screenwriter, Marty, who spends all day drinking instead of writing. However, when Marty is kicked out by his girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish), he’s forced to take refuge on the couch of his best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell) – a con man who, along with partner Hans (Christopher Walken), steals dogs and returns them to owners for reward money. Unfortunately, just as Marty hits rock bottom, Billy steals a Shih Tzu belonging to notorious crime lord, Charlie (Woody Harrelson), who goes on a blood-splattering rampage in search of the beloved dog. Through the highs and lows of the experience, Marty begins to fill in the pages of his screenplay, “Seven Psychopaths,” reappropriating the various situations, and mentally unstable personalities, for life on the big screen – in addition to learning that some psychopaths aren’t as bad as they might seem.

Moral ambiguity is a major focus of the performances – as many of the actors attempt to showcase the psychopathic extremes of their characters. Some are certainly more interesting than others: Rockwell walks a playful line (and provides an especially memorable monologue) while Walken’s turn as Hans offers some of the film’s most enjoyable as well as emotional moments. Farrell’s Marty, while entertaining scene to scene, is pretty bland overall and, despite a large amount of time dedicated to establishing (and frequently mentioning) his personal story arcs, he’s just an observer and doesn’t really develop outside of writing the script.

The rest of the ensemble is massive and viewers will be treated to a steady stream of familiar faces in unique and entertaining roles but few of the characters stick around long enough to distract from the core story that McDonagh is telling. Instead, through Marty, who is attempting to make sense of the crazy situation he’s been thrown into (while also trying to get his back on his feet), the director tackles a range of topics including society’s preoccupation with violence, disinterest in meaningful storytelling, and fear of the unknown (both secular and religious) – all while tying together stories involving a range of psychopathic personalities: a Vietnamese soldier, a mask-wearing mercenary, and a pair of homicidal lovers/vigilantes, among others.

Tom Waits Seven Psychopaths Seven Psychopaths Review

Tom Waits as Zachariah in ‘Seven Psychopaths’

To that end, Seven Psychopaths is one of the craziest film experiences that audiences will ever see, while at the same time offering an equal number of exceptionally insightful moments, especially as the film presses into the third act. Throats are cut, heads explode, and even though the movie is outrageously violent at times, McDonagh still manages to use all that brutality for a purpose beyond merely entertaining viewers – managing to present a number of intriguing juxtapositions where brutal people show their vulnerability and vulnerable people show their brutality. In these grey areas, surrounded by an absurd and over-the-top premise, Seven Psychopaths manages to deliver one of the more honest and introspective film experiences in recent memory.

Despite its successes, with so many odd-ball characters running around, not all of the narrative threads in Seven Psychopaths come full circle. A few substantive plot threads are entirely abandoned and, in some cases, the movie prioritizes quick gags over previously established character development. Given the ambitions of the larger story and the size of the ensemble, it’s not surprising that McDonagh couldn’t payoff every single plot point but he definitely focuses his time and energy in the right places. In an especially strong example, one side-lined character actually delivers the most impactful moment of the film. Still, moviegoers who respond to some of the support characters, or showed up to advocate for a favorite actor, might find the focus of their enthusiasm suddenly removed to make way for the primary psychopaths – with little resolution. Admittedly, this happens all the time in movies, it’s just that the amount of familiar faces in Seven Psychopaths makes it more noticeable.

Seven Psychopaths is a smart and well-executed dark comedy full of over-the-top violence and intriguing rumination on human nature and the joy of killing. The film sports an enjoyable ensemble and plenty of memorable performances – even if a few interesting plot threads get dropped in service of the larger project. Moviegoers who can handle philosophical musings accompanied by exploding heads will find that McDonagh has delivered another sharp and entertaining film.

If you’re still on the fence about Seven Psychopaths, check out the trailer below:

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Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Seven Psychopaths is Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use. Now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. good, this director is very promising

  2. Cool, I wish Cristopher Walken would make more movies. He is one of my favourite actors, I love this guy.

  3. Very disappointed, it needed more explosions and aliens. :(

    • Lol.

  4. Hmm…

    I expected at least 4 out of 5. Don’t think I’ll be watching this, though it had a great viral campaign.

    • 3.5/5 is a pretty great score! If it makes you feel any better, I was debating between 3.5 and 4.

      Scoring films is really subjective. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading the actual review – to see if it changes your mind. I wouldn’t let the score derail your interest in the film.

  5. I went to the premiere for this movie. I thought it sucked. I’m all for ultra violence for shock value but it needs to be balanced with a great story/writing. This film went nowhere and I felt nothing for any of the characters. If I had to describe it in one word I would be torn between “Empty” and “Dull”.

    • Have to agree with you. Seemed to best appeal to the immature 18-year-old crowd. No plot; doesn’t go anywhere. Some really good lines mixed in with a lot of nothingness.

  6. I saw this in a screening, and honestly, Sam Rockwell made the movie. Chris Walken had his hilarious moments, but really, Sam Rockwell owned the entire movie. Colin Farrell was crappy, as usual… It was alright, I would also give it a 3.5 or a 3 out of 5.

    • I will see pretty much anything Sam Rockwell is in.

    • Rockwell makes anything worth watching, he almost made Iron Man 2 watchable. Almost.

      • Ditto, as previously mentioned, he has one scene in this movie that i was literally in tears during. SAM ROCKWELL 4E, Y’ALL.

  7. I saw the screening, I walked out less than 30 minutes in. What an atrocious waste of minutes I had to sit through until I realized I could spend my time with my wife and not rotting my brain at this stupid comedy. I couldn’t get one laugh in during that time, nor was I pleased at the script. I couldn’t stay any longer before I lost my sanity and become a psychopath myself.

  8. Wow, with this, Sinister, Argo and Perks of Being a Wallflower opening and receiving great reviews from the site, this looks like a great weekend at the movies (I want to see all 4, but I won’t be able to, gonna have to spread them out throughout the month).

    • Yah, all good options. I was glad to see Perks get an expanded release.

  9. Another great review Ben.
    I’ll be sure to check this out when it hits rental though. My movie budget is getting pretty lean! :(

    • Thanks! Yah, October has enjoyed a number of surprisingly good offerings this year.

  10. Wow! i watch the preview and I’m laughing my head off and thinking how I’m looking foreward to seeing this funny movie, and then in the few comments here there’s such negativity. My guess is they’ve done like they do way too often. Show the trailer with all the funniest parts so when you see the movie you’re underwhelmed. I sure hope not. I’ll check it out when I can get it at home one way or other. It just looks so promising….

    • Trailer was great. But you’ve now seen the best parts of the movie. The rest is filler to work around the trailer. I wouldn’t bother.

    • Tundrabeast – Movies are subjective for sure but we’re not in the minority giving the film a positive review. Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film at 84% with 86% and 4/5 scores from viewers.

      My advice would be to read more of the reviews on their if you don’t feel like you can make a decision based entirely on our review (coupled with some negative comments).

  11. I saw this movie Friday and it was alright. Rockwell made this movie almost enjoyable to watch. Almost. Colin Farrell was just aweful and Walken was just alright. Woody Harrelson didn’t really standout. The most enjoyable parts of the movie was pretty much revealed in the trailers. The movie had no plot. The action in the movie was okay but nothing special. This is one movie I wish I could get my money back because it was just bad.

  12. Considering McDonagh is the only playwrite to have 3 plays runnibg similtainously on the London stage, and has an Oscar for his writing, are these comments about the same man?

    • I disagree with most of the comments above and think that McDonagh really succeeds here. The movie is more of a metamovie and explores (in a way that I feel is expanded from “In Bruges”) the violent side of our social tolerance. That is to say that, like in bruges, the on screen events are disgusting (and here McDonagh really goes over the top), the movie is filled with scenes that showcase the worst aspects of humanity. And it’s in the middle of this twisted environment that he makes the audience laugh. The whole film is essentially a catch 22 for the audience. We all laugh, but get trapped into laughing at the same time. In my opinion, this is a great movie and the lack of a plot doesn’t affect my experience. It’s a character driven story that says to hell with the plot (I think that McDonagh intentionally chose something as ridiculous as dognapping to get the plot out of the way so that he could get on with the interactions that drive this film) and carries on anyways, expertly paced and very aware of its own intentions.

  13. The worst movie I have seen in over 30 years. The script never really develops and any attempt to do so is lost in adolescent exploding heads and spraying blood. Sad commentary on our society if it thinks this is funny. Such as waste of time for the great actors that make up the cast. My only kudos go to Bonnie…you were the best… and to writers who for once did not introduce a dog into the story just to harm it later. No one in the group I attended with liked the film. We stayed to the end only because we thought it had no were to go but up…we were wrong.

  14. some funny lines, but no real story. Disappointed. Loved in Bruges which was violent, funny and had a credible story line

  15. some excellent actors but terrible movie….I’m getting tired of brutality for nothing…our world is becoming quite twisted…….

  16. Saw the film before it was released in theaters. I didn’t care for any characters was bored with it by the end. My friend did like it but he’s into Mcdonagh’s playwriting so I kind of think he is a bit biased.

  17. Complete garbage of a movie! I don’t know how people get given money to make films like this….
    Pointless and complete waste of time… I kept watching to see if anything was going to happen. Complete garbage!!!

  18. Sick and twisted is how I would describe this film. Violent and gross, not funny. Very dehumanizing and degrading to women, who are referred to as C’s and it is supposed to be funny. I’m not laughing.

    • “Sick and twisted is how I would describe this film. Violent and gross, not funny. Very dehumanizing and degrading to women, who are referred to as C’s and it is supposed to be funny. I’m not laughing.”

      That is the entire point that the movie is making. It is not being degrading to women and violent for no purpose, it is using these fallacies to show the true nature of them and that this is how our society currently is being portrayed as and needs to change.

      Obviously you couldn’t see past the dog kidnapping and look at the bigger picture. Great movie I would probably give it a 4/5. Good review Ben.