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Review: Seven Psychopaths

PUBLISHED: 09:53 07 December 2012

Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths

Archant

A great movie title is a rare and beautiful thing that will bob along in the collective memory forever, regardless of the quality of the film, retained by the pleasure of saying it. Generally, though, a great title will hook up with a great movie.

Seven Psychopaths maybe isn’t a truly great title but it is a very good one, one that makes you desperately want to like the film, and when it becomes clear that the attached movie is going to lag some way behind it, the pang of disappointment is palpable.

Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to In Bruges is an attempt to address our unhealthy fascination with evil and violence. It is about trying, and failing, to find alternatives to the narrative conventions of gun-dominated revenge cycles. It is a fight worth fighting, but maybe not so noble that you can truly enjoy an admission of defeat, which is what this is.

His vehicle is a writer’s block story mixed with a meta making-the-movie-up-before-your-eyes stunt.

Colin Farrell is an LA screenwriter who is struggling to find a plot to escort his title, Seven Psychopaths. He wants to avoid all the violent clichés, find something more pacifist.

His best friend Sam Rockwell, a struggling actor, favours a more conventional approach building towards a climactic shootout and suggests a story about a psychopath who only kills other psychopaths. Except such a figure already exists in LA and is bumping off mid to high-ranking members of the Mafia.

This is a clever film, but it’s the kind of clever where you nod in recognition at its cleverness rather than the kind which sends a thrilling tingle through you when you recognise what is being pulled off. It is a ragtag collection of shaggy dog stories and interesting digressions that never pulls itself together. This may well be McDonagh’s intention but its pleasures are too sketchy to carry it off and, as a result, it really drags. By the end, it feels like you’ve been watching for well over two hours.

Too often it feels like a cop-out. Someone reading a Farrell screenplay complains that he can’t write women. This in a film where Abbie Cornish (who surely must have thought the only way was up after Sucker Punch) is given a pittance of screen time in scenes where she is repeatedly referred to as a bitch or worse, before getting a wet T-shirt scene. Then again, she fares a lot better than Olga Kurylenko, but to tell would be spoilers.

Seven Psychopaths is a film of “good bits” but those good bits are never quite as good as you’d hope they’d be. I think it just scrapes by on the quality of the (male) performers.

If you have people like Christopher Walken and Tom Waits in a film and give them moderately diverting things to say and do then it is never going to be a thumbs down.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (15)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits and Abbie Cornish

Length: 109 mins

***

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