Seven Psychopaths review: Follow-up to In Bruges squanders the talent of a first-class cast

By
Chris Tookey

17:25 EST, 6 December 2012


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20:24 EST, 6 December 2012

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (15)

Verdict: A big disappointment





Rating: 2 Star Rating

After the cult success of In Bruges — a patchy but often hilarious account of hitmen on a gruesome holiday in Belgium — Martin McDonagh’s second film as writer-director arrives as one of the year’s most eagerly awaited films.

Of the many screenwriters who have followed in the footsteps of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Pulp Fiction and Charlie Kaufman’s joyously quirky ventures into surrealism (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), McDonagh has showed the  most promise.

So it’s a shame that his second film has only flashes of brilliance. Too much is so clever-clever that it borders on the stupid.

Scroll down to watch trailer

Barking: Colin Farrell, left, and Sam Rockwell, right, in Seven Psychopaths - the follow-up to In Bruges

Barking: Colin Farrell, left, and Sam Rockwell, right, in Seven Psychopaths – the follow-up to In Bruges

The anti-hero, played by Colin Farrell, is a drunken Hollywood screenwriter trying to turn out  a script, entitled Seven Psychopaths, about a serial killer in search of personal redemption and world peace.

But the writer is having problems avoiding Tarantino-esque cliches, so a helpful actor (Sam Rockwell) introduces him to real underworld figures, including a sad-sack petty criminal (Christopher Walken) who specialises in kidnapping dogs and selling them back to their grateful owners.

From there, the writer gets a glimpse of a real killer when Walken’s dognapper unwisely steals a shih tzu belonging to a dangerously unhinged gangster (who else but Woody Harrelson?).

Then he meets even more psychotic killers, like the one played not very subtly by Tom Waits, who chops his victims up with a meat cleaver and allows his pet rabbit to drink their blood — and then sets them on fire.

Farrell and Walken squeeze a few laughs out of the picture. Walken is livelier than he has been of late, and the pretty-boy looks of his youth have morphed into an endearingly sour-faced disappointment at being punched repeatedly in the face by life. 

Farrell has a fine comedy face, too, especially when emerging baffled from an alcoholic stupor with eyebrows roaming his forehead like deranged caterpillars.

The letdown is that McDonagh revels in the very things he is trying to satirise: a flippant attitude to violence, movies with nothing to say about killing, the tendency of Hollywood writers to disappear up their own fundament.

And the women on display — portrayed by some fine actresses, including Abbie Cornish and Gabourey Sidibe from Precious — are so poorly written that they feel like a calculated insult to half the human race. The choices McDonagh makes are meant to be anarchic and innovative, but instead they feel arbitrary, unreal and lazy, without a controlling idea.

People who like to see a lot of macho strutting may be less annoyed than I was.

For the first half hour, Seven Psychopaths looks like fun — but then it turns into the kind of bore that loves to party but seriously outstays his welcome.

Now watch the trailer

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Seven Psychopaths review: Follow-up to In Bruges squanders the talent of a first-class cast

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