Sunday Review: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

I have a tendency to skim through the lists on Amazon’s prime instant streaming when I’m bored. I add tons of things to the watchlist that I know in all honesty I will probably never watch, at least not before they stop being available on prime instant.

As it happens, I’ve started whittling down the list. Today, I watched Seven Psychopaths. I vaguely remembered seeing a preview for this movie a while back before it hit theaters in 2012, but I didn’t really think much of it beyond “Oh look, Christopher Walken.” Actually, until I checked it out on IMDB, I didn’t even realize it had come out that long ago.

Well, there is definitely Christopher Walken portraying a character that I really loved, but there’s also a lot more. So, here’s 5 things I liked and 1 thing I didn’t.

seven psycopaths

The Amazon Prime icon for the movie was way cooler than this poster, and it was more honest. The women pictured really aren’t that important, and they aren’t two of the psychopaths.

Summary

I actually have no idea how to describe this. The Amazon description is “A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.”

Yes and no.

Marty (Colin Firth) is a struggling alcoholic and screenwriter, and his friends are definitely kooky and get him into some deep shit with a stolen dog. Still, I think the LA criminal underworld angle is a bit misguided. Yeah the main villain (Woody Harrelson) is in the mafia, but other than that… the mafia has nothing to do with this movie.

5 Things I Liked

1. Bizarre conversations

I love that the film opens with a rambling conversation between two guys who end up being completely unimportant; I thought for sure that they were two of the psychopaths until the actual psychopath showed up. These are the kinds of conversations that I wish I could have. Sure they’re borderline insane most of the time, but that’s kind of how my mind works anyway (minus most of the violence).

Even things like Billy (Sam Rockwell) refuting Gandhi’s quote that “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” are refreshing, even if they’re not incredibly original. I think the dialogue is definitely the film’s strongest asset.

2. The random non-plot elements

The Vietnamese Buddhist psychopath was one of my favorite characters, and he wasn’t even a real character in the main plot. But he was amazing as a symbol of what Marty could come up with when he wasn’t drowning in Bourbon.

I also loved that Billy kept mentioning how much he hated Marty’s ex-girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish). It felt like she should actually be important because break ups are tough, and this is super recent for Marty, but he totally gives no shits with everything else that is happening around him. Yet, Billy keeps bringing it up.

I think that these little things added to the chaos, but they also kept the story from falling flat when things go a little beyond the realm of belief.

3. So Meta

Holy balls, guys. This movie spent more time talking about itself than anything I’ve ever seen. But not in a way that made me go “You’re trying too hard; dial it back.” Probably because it never claims to be an action movie or revenge film (despite what Billy wants). It’s really just about this guy trying to write a screenplay despite writer’s block while everything is going to shit around him.

I also loved how Hans (Christopher Walken) comments on Marty’s draft that the women don’t speak for themselves really and always get murdered. The film doesn’t change this after it’s mentioned—I’m actually pretty sure that no more women show up after that point—but just the conversation about it still draws more attention to those female characters, even if it’s just in retrospect.

4. Billy’s Twist

I did not see this coming. I probably should have, and when I watch this movie again, I’m sure that I’ll probably feel really blind for not catching it the first time. Still, I didn’t expect Billy to be one of the psychopaths let alone being TWO of them.

Granted, I think that Billy is really only one of the psychopaths, and that Marty is actually the seventh, but that’s a whole other analysis.

Anyway, I love being surprised by films, so this was great.

5. Christopher Walken’s conversation with the mafia goon

Everything about Hans is great, and I love Christopher Walken as an actor in general, but there was this one particular scene that I just adored. I’m pretty sure it was actually in the trailer, but seeing it in context makes it even more golden.

Basically, the bad guy goon holds him at gunpoint and tells him to put his hands up, and Hans says no, because he doesn’t want to. They have an awkward, stilted conversation where the guy with the gun is just SO confused, and Hans is cool as a vinegar-soaked cucumber.

I think this scene really showcases Walken’s character and the particular way that his psychosis behaves.

1 Thing I Didn’t

I feel like I would definitely need to watch this movie again to really “get” it. That isn’t a bad thing per say, but it was vaguely annoying here. The movie spends so much time talking about itself while also having a compelling main plot that it’s difficult to keep up with which part we’re on right now (the meta conversations or the revenge plot that’s not a revenge plot).

I spent a lot of the movie not knowing what the hell was going on. Then again, confusion is my natural state of being, so maybe this is less a “thing I didn’t like” and more a “thing that mildly annoyed me.”

En Fin

I will probably watch this movie again at some point now that I know what to expect. It’s one of those films that’s really difficult to wrap your head around until you’ve watched it through once. Even having seen it, I still have trouble describing it (as seen in the Summary). I think it’s because there are so many random elements that seem important even though they don’t actually tie into the main plot.

Anyway, 4.5 out of 5 if for no other reason than that the cast were all amazing and the characters were compelling even with their obscene levels of crazy.

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