Seven Psychopaths and Bloated Expectations

Seven Psychopaths is a film by Martin McDonagh, whose earlier film In Bruges was a surprising charmer. Seven Psychopaths is the latest victim of my bloated expectations. I left the film thinking, that was ok but I had hoped to laugh a bit more, like I did during In Bruges. So I was a bit disappointed, but not because this was a bad film. It was ok, or maybe it was my mood, or maybe it was because I had watched it immediately after Looper, a film that moved me more.

If this film can be described in one word, it would be meta. Seven Psychopaths opens with a masked killer taking down known criminals and leaving a Jack of Diamond behind as his calling card. Seven Psychopaths is also the title of a screenplay that Marty (Colin Farrell) is working on; if staring at a title page and drinking endless quantities of hard liquor can be called working. Because Marty’s shady wannabe actor/dog-napper friend and now roomate Billy (Sam Rockwell) feels Marty’s pain and desperately wants to help, Billy takes out an ad in the classified listings looking for psychopaths willing to be interviewed. Needless to say, Marty is not impressed when he is left alone with the respondent. As if life weren’t difficult enough, chaos ensues when Billy and his partner in crime, Hans (Christopher Walken) kidnap a psychopathic crimelord’s (Woody Harrelson) beloved shih-tzu. The film flashes between Marty brainstorming his alcohol-fueled nonsensical screenplay with the help of Billy and Hans as they try to cross Rio de Caca and survive the crimelord’s wrath. I do not want to give away any plot spoilers, so to say more would be risky.

This film has some clever banter (some of it feels a bit forced) and is self referential to a ridiculous degree. I mean, surely, no one watching would be surprised by the climax, especially after Billy tells Marty how he should craft the climax in his half-baked screenplay. However, I really did not click with any of the characters. So the stakes were not high enough to make me care too much about the final outcome. Since I wasn’t attached to anyone, Meh, I didn’t care if anyone survived. McDonagh’s earlier film, In Bruges had me caring, a lot, about what happened to 2 hitmen (you might even call them psychopaths) who were laying low and waiting for the dust to settle after they botched a job. McDonagh made those characters very relatable. If  I don’t care about the characters on the screen, it is hard to rave about a film. I am not sure if that is a failure on my part to get it. Or if it is a failure of the film to deliver. Certainly, I have learned to appreciate films after a second viewing (The Big Lebowski, for instance).

I guess I wanted more, but that doesn’t make it a bad film, just one I won’t return to in a hurry. I would rather just rewatch In Bruges.

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