Review: Seven Psychopaths

February 2, 2013

Holy fucking shit.

That could be your review right there. Three words, holy fucking shit. Because that’s what I found myself saying throughout most of this movie. But since I don’t want to just crap something out, I’ll elaborate (also, you’ll have to forgive me if I skimp on some of the details – I’m running on about three hours of sleep).

The main focus of Seven Psychopaths is really a writer by the name of Martin Faranan, who is working on a movie appropriately titled Seven Psychopaths. But he doesn’t have to go it alone, being helped by his friends Billy and Hans, who kidnap dogs so they can return them to their owner for a reward. Billy is an out of work actor, and Hans helps with the dogs to get money for his African-American wife who’s in the hospital with cancer. I normally wouldn’t have mentioned that she was African-American, but it comes up more than a few times in the movie.

As Martin is writing his screenplay, Billy has kidnapped the shih-tzu of a mob boss. So most of the movie deals with Martin’s attempts to come up with convincing psychopaths while helping Billy and Hans not get killed by the mafia. Fair warning: Last chance to skip to the last paragraph to bypass the spoilers.

Martin does eventually wind up with seven psychopaths. The first is a serial killer called Jack O’Diamonds for his habit of leaving a Jack of Diamonds on all the mobsters he kills. Also, he’s Billy. The second is a Quaker whose daughter was brutally murdered. The story goes (and it’s told two or three times during the movie) that her killer lived with himself for a year before he turned himself in. He gets sentenced to life despite asking for the death penalty, and while in prison he finds religion. Not just an act, but the real thing. Something like twenty, twenty-five years pass and he’s been a model inmate the entire time. The parole board decides that he’s truly repented, so they set him free. And for six months, after all this time, the Quaker is following him, watching him. This goes on for six months, until finally the killer can’t take it anymore. Remembering that the only people guaranteed a place in hell are those who die by their own hand, he takes a cutthroat knife and slashes his own throat. And the last thing he sees before he dies is the Quaker, who takes out his own knife and slashes his own throat.

Oh, and the Quaker is Hans. Which, incidentally, is why he wears a cravat. Also it’s pretty stylish.

The third and fourth Martin found because of a classified ad that Billy put in the paper. Zachariah and Maggie. Zachariah rescued Maggie from the basement of a judge, where she was being held. The two go on a killing spree, targeting serial killers in what I imagine Dexter would be like if it were inadvisably turned into a romantic comedy, before Zachariah leaves after Maggie sets the Zodiac Killer on fire after pinning his hands to a table with kitchen knives. Which, yeah. That’s kind of fucked up. The fifth is the mob boss whose dog he loves so much that he shoots Hans’ wife Myra in the back of the head. While she’s still in the hospital. Number six is a Vietnamese man whose family was killed in the My Lai Massacre who travels to New Mexico to attack a reunion of veterans from Charlie Company. Hans suggests via tape recorder that the attack be a dream sequence and the Vietnamese man be the first monk to self-immolate in protest of the war. And the seventh is Billy because even when he’s not killing mafiosi, he’s still a goddamned psychopath.

So, to make a long story short (too late), Billy calls the mob boss to meet them in the desert, Hans loses his faith in an afterlife after eating peyote, wanders to a ranger’s station and gets shot by one of the mobsters with a shotgun slug, the mob boss shoots Billy in the  head and is arrested by the park rangers, and Martin survives to finish his screenplay which is filmed and released.

You know what, I’m going to change my short assessment of this movie to Jesus Fucking Christ. Also, the trailers you’ve been seeing on TV? They’re goddamn liars. Almost all of the comedy is in the trailers, and the rest of the movie is just dark as a pound of coal dust. It’s not like I came in expecting a lighthearted romp – the movie is called Seven Psychopaths after all – but I wasn’t expecting it to be this dark. When movies about a pansexual alien trying to take over the world, an entire town held captive in a television studio, an alien plant who eats people, and a nuclear war that will destroy all of civilization are getting more frequent laughs than a movie about a guy stealing a mobster’s dog, something’s gone horribly wrong. And I think what went wrong in this case was the marketing department. They really focused too much on the comedy aspect of the film, which was really a mistake. A few of the scenes just felt wrong, because you’d have a comedic moment followed less than a minute later with a main character getting shot. And the comedic scenes are, for a hundred and ten minute running time, relatively few and far between for a black comedy.

But on the other hand, the casting is really spot on, and I can overlook some of the problems on the grounds that Christopher Walken is just one of those actors who instantly elevates any film he’s in (with the possible exception of The Country Bears). All things considered, it’s not a bad movie. If a movie where two-thirds of the main characters end up dead interests you, or if you just want to see Christopher Walken wear a cravat, then I’d definitely recommend it to you. If you’re looking for a lot of laughs, or a dark comedy where the emphasis is on comedy, you should probably just keep walking.

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