What You’ll Like:
- Unique and quirky plot
- Intelligently written subtle humor
- Involving story
What You May Not:
- Humor is more of an acquired taste
- You will most likely not relate to these characters at all
- Christopher Walken is surprisingly mellow and unmemorable
- The whole of the film does not leave you with much by the end
What You’ll Remember:
- If anything, perhaps Sam Rockwell’s comedic performance
Seemingly out of nowhere we are sometimes granted small treats of sleeper films by ambitious directors and screenplay writers, created with a fairly low budget, do not boast for much publicity, are treated with only limited theatrical releases, and only garnering any popularity, however small, by the means of word of mouth spoken by a smaller fanfare mostly exclusively made up of your more hardcore film buffs. Yet such small projects have a certain artsy cred appeal to some A and B-list Hollywood stars; those open-minded enough to take on roles that challenge current trends and are not afraid to create new ideas that other filmmakers may or may not pick up on. Such films typically later on go to either be hailed with critical acclaim or completely massacred by the same, yet the procedure for the most part usually plays out in it ultimately being forgotten by the greater masses, most especially if their content is extreme enough to weed out anyone who prefers a more tame theatrical experience. A few do end up standing out in relative sleeper greatness though, and with that, in comes the mostly unknown (at least on our shores) European director Matt Mcdonagh, and his quirky, funny, but also near sadistically satisfying crime action/comedy, Seven Psychopaths. A film which puts forth one of the more original movie ideas in recent memory, even if it doesn’t make it the most memorable one.
On the outset, Psychopath’s plot may sound more of a cute joke, especially with its kind of big-name cast. That being, two friends with no real past history given to us, pick up some extra spending cash by kidnapping rich people’s dogs and then later return them to collect the reward money. One of these friends, Billy, played by Sam Rockwell, has a tough guy yet doormat friend Marty (Colin Farrell) who is making half-assed and proud attempts at writing a new screenplay he hopes to sell telling a story about the lives of seven different psychopaths, appropriately named, Seven Psychopaths; although Marty is having troubles of his own when it comes to his live-in girlfriend Kaya, played by Abbie Cornish. Billy’s accomplice in this dognapping scheme is Han, played with a calming mellow allure by Christopher Walken who seems to have taken this role to either just earn a paycheck or pick up a quick slice of indie cred before his next bigger project; Han being only half in mind with the plan, given that his own life problems have him almost giving up on life altogether. Now, while Walken is still somewhat likeable, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with his performance at all, it simply is not very memorable in the least. Sort of like the entire movie, actually. Hans’ dealing with his own grief regards his cancer-stricken wife who he makes an admirable amount of time for by visiting her room at the hospital virtually every day.
Rather quickly, they happen to kidnap the dog of a psychotic crime lord named Charlie, played well enough by Woody Harrelson, and from here the film rolls on with its gripping, many times comedic, but ultimately unrelatable story of not only the lengths this insane and obsessed crime lord will go through to retrieve his overly beloved pooch, but also the unconventional ongoing relationship of our three dognappers – Marty, Billy, and Hans. The three grown boy-men do their sorts in bickering and planning, entertainingly so due to some very well written dialogue and Sam Rockwell’s more hysterical if immature moments. The majority of the film plays out with our crime lord Charlie seeking out the trio, even if it means killing any loved ones that my stand in his way; meanwhile, our three protagonists trying to keep it two steps ahead. Yet amidst all the drama, Marty (Farrell) is still stuck on his ideas for writing his breakthrough screenplay. That being, his tale of a unique and non-violent film about violent characters. It’s at this point that Psychopaths takes the opportunity to not only present to us some brief re-enactments of what said psychopath’s lives are like, taken straight from Marty’s imagination of course, but also inexplicably uses a few of the real life characters within the film to stand as psychopaths, making you wonder if there is anything you’re not really grasping; the storytelling here can become a bit jarry as it goes through its parallels. Not to fret, as the viewer is never left completely alone as long as they simply accept these strangely presented script ideas; they do make more sense in short time. Thankfully these quirky storytelling ideas are not a distraction but the base of the entirety of the film’s tone, and can make for some intriguing and charming filmmaking mostly thanks to its stars’ performances, yet leaves little that can be relatable or even memorable to the average person. Yes, while some subtle humor makes the narrower demographic feel as if they’re in some kind of cool inside joke, there is not much extension in us actually feeling any sort of remorse or compassion for anyone here. Still, the longer you watch Psychopaths, the more you feel it was intended this way. Everything from Woody Harrelson’s strange love obsession with his dog, to Christopher Walken’s reaction to catastrophic events (one of which involves a gun being pointed at him which makes for one of the film’s more well intended but forced jokes), to Marty and Billy’s very adolescent boy-like immaturity (despite one very funny scene involving Rockwell’s character giving screenplay ending suggestions) involving Billy becoming obsessed with making their situation parallel an action movie, to an advertisement put out by the guys to hire any potential psychopaths with a strange life story they can use for the screenplay, which gives us a man with a pet bunny and a very violent vigilante love story of his own… it all surprisingly blends together wonderfully to make a film so surprisingly entertaining despite its complete lack of sense. And when I say sense, I mean not in terms of technical storytelling, but of personal character reactions and logic. To put it simply – Psychopaths is joyfully aware of itself, exuding humor almost purposefully made to detract certain audiences. By the end, you may find yourself disappointed in the lack of character resolution despite there being character resolution for every person in the movie, while still very much liking it at the same time. This all comes from the fact that even though we are given a story that is at base about survival and revenge, the overall tone here is completely cheeky, as well as the situations we are given to believe all feel rather far-fetched and mostly unrealistic despite its ability to poke fun at similar movie plots which tend to take themselves too seriously, and over dramatize such situations; Psychopaths says ‘yea, all those movies where they do THIS, why didn’t anyone think to just do THAT instead?’
Psychopaths feels like it has a very rightful place in the indie crowd, as the general scope for such a set of uniquely crafted quirky ideas will only be appreciated by so many, meanwhile turning off anyone who either is sick of seeing modern day man-boys spitting out sarcastic banter, turned off by dark comedy, or just queasy to more meticulously performed bloody and grotesque violent acts. No, the film is not difficult to understand in the least, and does offer a good round of comedy, yet feels more like a template to portray intelligent storytelling and comedic ideas rather than give the audience any sort of moral lesson or memorable characters. Even from the lack of film effects we have become accustomed to, such as slo-mo, fade-ins, sweeping establishing shots, etc – Psychopaths doesn’t bother with any of it. Rather the “effects,” such as cinematography, color tone and camera shots are all kept your regular textbook fundamentals level. At least in this way we can appreciate what it DOES have to offer, instead of perhaps noticing the lack of machine guns, fist fights, and overall gags.
An unfortunately shallow affair. While there are plenty of featurettes, most highlighting the more main characters of the film, they come off as TV spots and only running about one to two minutes each. There is one extremely short gag reel featuring only two production scenes, all of which do not even showcase anything significantly comedic at all.
Graphics and Sound:
No real complaints here. Psychopaths has a relatively good blu-ray transfer, despite a few moments of some over-saturation at the start of the film, but that may just be the filmmaker’s intention. Things are mostly sharp and clear the entire way through, and there are virtually no trouble spots, such as any distortion noise or unbalanced colors. While it would have been nice to see things a bit more vibrant, what isn’t broken should not be fixed, hence visually we have your basic standard HD quality movie. When coming to sound, things are just as decent. During action scenes guns aren’t very heavy in the bass department, which is perfectly fine considering the balance of the overall sound production doesn’t make the blu-ray mistake of compromising something for another, such as raised voices with low music. Thankfully any and all action sequences involving guns aren’t deafening and over zealous when considering the rest of the soundtrack.
Seven Psychopaths is a tongue-in-cheek, semi-action dark comedy aimed more towards movie buffs, but has a substantial amount of well-written and entertaining characters despite however odd and deranged they all may be. Definitely an indie film worth checking out for fans of dark comedies, but not something anyone outside a whim of care for that genre will ever lose any sleep over. It is by all means a sleeper hit, and does contain some very creative ideas and one of the more original storylines you’ll perhaps catch this year. I would give it a cheeky 3 pooches out of 4.