Review: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Seven Psychopaths (dir. Martin McDonagh, 2012) – Billy lands his dognapping partner and screenwriter friend into trouble when he kidnaps the beloved Shih Tzu of a violent mobster.


This is a movie about a movie about seven psychopaths and I love it. It’s got layers. (Walken and Rockwell did not engage in a dance battle. For shame!)


In the Oscar-winning short Six Shooter, director Martin McDonagh showed his knack for crafting maniacs with a penchant for both violence and laughs. Now, he returns with seven more in his new black comedy Seven Psychopaths.

His directorial debut In Bruges is a tough act to follow. But choosing not to play it safe, he takes on a movie framed within a movie in his second feature. The convoluted plot may see this as a less solid effort, yet the risky move still assures of gripping originality. The meta-critique voices out absurdity of the genre staples, and the wonderful parody doesn’t end there. Beyond digging at the film industry, it pokes at social stereotypes with little fear of offence.

Unconventional storytelling unfolds with clever humour and savage carnage, echoing the style of auteurs like The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino. Yet there is a certain playfulness in pained characters that is distinctively McDonagh’s. Penning a crime story with dismal darkness and comedy in equal parts, he delivers another quotable brilliance. Something like Barton Fink in a lighter mood.

Of course, the main draw is the first-rate ensemble cast. Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell play three of seven, playing compelling eccentrics with impeccable comic timing. (When is Rockwell going to get his Oscar?) While Linda Bright Clay did not get a mention in the promos, her captivating performance sure as hell deserves one.

Then, there’s Bonny. I mean… Just look at her:

Seven Psychopaths
Credit: Blueprint Pictures / Chuck Zlotnick

“It was hot with these flashbulbs going off (at the Toronto International Film Festival). There was this huge guy standing next to me yelling, ‘Let me pick her up.’ And I’m protecting the dog, thinking, ‘If you touch that dog, I will crack you right in the face.'”
– Christopher Walken

An absolute star. Move over, Uggie.

Of course, Seven Psychopaths is admittedly not for everyone. Many will misunderstand the provocative brand of satirical humour, reserved for a select group with darker tastes. Besides, the striking over-the-top violence can see it harder to swallow than the average comedy.

Nonetheless, this makes for an unconventionally hilarious treat that will leave you with quotes on the tip of your tongue. If you love every second of In Bruges, you will be a fan. (If you don’t like In Bruges, you have never seen In Bruges. And if you haven’t seen In Bruges, we can’t be friends do that.)


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