Saturday, October 13, 2012

Seven Psychopaths Review

Seven Psychopaths is a very strange film.  Very, very strange.  It’s a perfect example of misleading marketing.  All of the trailers that I saw billed Psychopaths as a crime-infused comedy about seven crazy people, wrapped up in a dog-kidnapping scheme.  What I actually saw wasn’t anything close to being a comedy.  I mean, there are definitely comedic beats and some pretty funny stuff peppered throughout, but in reality Psychopaths is tonally all over the place, bouncing from some of the aforementioned comedic bits to incredibly dramatic moments that left my brain completely confused as to how I was supposed to feel.

I actually enjoyed Psychopaths for the most part.  What really bothers me are the wild tonal shifts that happen incredibly frequently throughout the film.  I kind of understand why it was marketed as a comedy; I couldn’t imagine a trailer that could encapsulate what the film is really like.  There are some moments in Psychopaths that are heart-wrenchingly sad and not in the least bit comedic.  I was honestly shocked at what depths the film is willing to go to.  Don’t get me wrong – these dramatic moments and storylines are intriguing and kept my attention, but the problem is that a funny line or scene would come right after something that horrified me; I wanted to laugh but felt very awkward doing so.

The actual narrative structure of Psychopaths is by no means conventional.  Yes, the main narrative arc revolves around Sam Rockwell’s Billy, who kidnaps dogs for Christopher Walken’s Hans to return for a reward.  Billy steals mobster Charlie’s (Woody Harrelson) Shih Tzu and all sorts of bloody mayhem ensues.  However, what the film really is about is Colin Farrell’s Marty; he’s a screenwriter who is trying to write a film called “Seven Psychopaths.”  The trailers listed the seven psychopaths of our film as being seven characters involved in the story.  In reality, the “seven psychopaths” of Marty’s film are the actual psychopaths.  Some of the characters in Psychopaths actually end up becoming some the “psychopaths” for Marty’s screenplay.  This aspect wasn’t even hinted at in the marketing; some of the “Psychopaths” labeled in trailers are in the film for fewer than five minutes (Olga Kurylenko is on screen for literally fewer than five minutes).

What I enjoyed most about Seven Psychopaths is the unconventional nature of the narrative.  I was wholeheartedly confused for a large swath of the runtime, as we bounce from character to character, both in the actual film and in Marty’s “Seven Psychopaths.”  After I sifted through the fictional characters and the ones actually populating the film, I was able to slowly appreciate how the story was unfolding in front of me.  By the time we reach the climax of the film (a fantastic stand-off in the desert) I was completely invested in the characters and where the story was headed.  Because of the story-flipping nature of Marty’s interwoven screenplay, the actual events of the finale could be left up to interpretation; you aren’t quite sure what is real and what isn’t.

It’s very difficult to peg what type of moviegoer would enjoy Seven Psychopaths; I supposed if you like very dark, violent dramas with some humor splashed around you may enjoy Psychopaths.  I have a strong feeling that repeat viewings will highly benefit the overall enjoyment level of seeing this film.  There’s so much going on at times and as Christopher Walken’s Hans puts it: “it’s got layers.”  It’s not one of my favorite films of the year, but it sure does have its moments.

Seven Psychopaths is a very odd, tonally uneven film that may leave many quite confused.

The Bearded Bullet.

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