As an admirer of Martin McDonagh’s plays and (more reservedly) his debut feature In Bruges (2008), I was seriously bummed out by what an empty piece of work his follow-up turned out to be. Seven Psychopaths doesn’t lack for good actors, or for moments of facile cleverness; what’s disheartening about it is just how much talent was squandered.
For most of two hours, a lot of low-life wiseguys stand around trading verbal riffs — when they’re not committing acts of ultraviolence, that is. There’s also some mild satire about life in La-La Land and some jokey ‘meta’ stuff; this is a movie that’s aware it’s a movie. That may be why the audience I saw Seven Psychopaths with in Los Feliz whooped it up during all the endless scenes of shootings, beatings, stabbings, people being burned alive, maimed, etc.
McDonagh’s plays often feature the threat of imminent violence, and characters recounting an act of violence; occasionally there’s an actual representation of violence. But here it doesn’t seem to have occurred to McDonagh that constantly showing realistic depictions of extreme violence in a film is very different from a stage play — where, of course, any bloodletting is likely to be more stylized, and where the audience sits at a remove from the action.
The numbing bloodbaths of Seven Psychopaths aren’t exactly clever. They just add to this viewer’s impression that in his wanderings from western Ireland to Hollywood, McDonagh has lost his way, and turned out a movie that’s dismayingly reminiscent of a sub-Tarantino effort from the mid 1990s.
The movie poster for Seven Psychopaths features two actresses, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko: one turns up for five minutes, just long enough to wear a bikini and get shot in the gut. The other appears long enough to have the C-word directed at her, and later reappears to get doused in water, showing a see-through top.
The only reason to see this movie is to marvel at the way Christopher Walken pronounces the word “hallucinogenics.” Maybe a clip of that scene is on YouTube.
Seven Psychopaths will be released on Region 1 DVD on January 29th.