Seven Psychopaths Review: A Movie About Failing to Write a Movie

Laremy loved Seven Psychopaths and it hurts my soul when he and I disagree, but Laremy, you ignorant slut, consider this my rebuttal.

On paper, this is a movie I should love. The guy from In Bruges directing a group of my favorite actors in a hyperviolent, metatextual riff on screenwriting. In reality, aside from a few clever lines, a brilliant Christopher Walken impression from Christopher Walken, and a very cute dog, Seven Psychopaths felt like a whole lot of grad school navel gazing and wasted actors, a clear case of a writer needing a director who was not himself.

First of all, Seven Psychopaths is a subtext movie. It’s not the screwball comedy they’re trying to sell you in the previews – which is fine, because whatever movie they’re trying to sell you in the trailers looks pretty shitty. And I’ve liked quite a few subtext movies – Adaptation, Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass – movies where the action on screen is supposed to represent a character’s stylized version of the reality of the movie. In Seven Psychopaths, all the action you see is meant to represent the movie that Colin Farrell’s character – an Irish, alcoholic screenwriter, presumably a stand-in for McDonagh – is trying to write. It’s a movie about a character in the movie writing the movie we’re now watching. Writing about writing, get it? That might strike some as hopelessly fart-huffing, but I love a meta movie if it’s done well.

The key distinction here is that Adaptation was a story about a writer overcoming obstacles in order to write a movie, complete with a triumphant, ridiculous, over-the-top final act after Charlie Kaufman learns to embrace the tenets taught to him by Robert McKee. Seven Psychopaths is essentially about a writer’s failure to write a movie. I don’t doubt Martin McDonagh’s talent, but I’m not convinced this is ever a worthwhile endeavor. Seven Psychopaths definitely doesn’t make the case for it. The problem is, none of the scenes mean anything. They’re all just cynical critiques of writing techniques cleverly but pointlessly laid bare by McDonagh with no forward momentum. Farrell will complain “I don’t want to just write another film about people with guns in their hands for some reason!”

Cue people with guns in their hands for some reason.

Fine, but what do you want to write? At one point, Rockwell points out that Farrell never writes any female characters who aren’t corpses or eye candy, which leads to a wildly sarcastic scene with a hooker who’s also doing volunteer work and studying at Yale. It’s probably the funniest moment of the movie, but the whole thing is a digression. Who is this fictional hooker from the fiction of the fictional Colin Farrell and why should we care? The whole movie is a digression.

Adaptation is likewise a movie about a guy having a hard time writing a movie, but at least Charlie Kaufman had the balls to overtly use himself as the main character. Here, we’re left to wonder who Colin Farrell’s character is, basically for the entire movie. Also, Charlie Kaufman got hired to adapt an orchid book and he was under a deadline. We’re never sure why McDonagh has to write Seven Psychopaths. Why do we want to watch you fail to write a movie no one’s forcing you to write in the first place?