Much like last year's Cabin in the Woods, Seven Psychopaths is the sort of film that pokes holes in its genre while still holding up as an affectionate entry. Also like Cabin, Psychopaths is a film significantly different than the movie being advertised in its previews.
Like 8 1/2 and Adaptation before it, Seven Psychopaths is essentially a film about its own creation. The author surrogate, Colin Farrell's Marty, is a screenwriter struggling with the script for his latest film, Seven Psychopaths. His creative and personal problems quickly take a backseat, however, when Marty's dognapper best friend, Sam Rockwell's Billy, and his accomplice, Christopher Walken's Hans, get on the wrong side of an actually psychopathic criminal, Woody Harrelson's Charlie. With Charlie's kidnapped dog in tow, Billy, Marty and Hans all flee into the California desert, where their time on the lam allows for Marty to workshop his script with his friends.
As you could probably guess, the events of our Seven Psychopaths come to influence those of Marty's screenplay, and the film is at its most clever those few times where the line between the two blurs. Granted, much of the meta-humor and commentary is rather blunt, but ultimately there is enough depth to director Martin McDonagh's characters, and enough layers to his story, to make the conceit much more enjoyable and satisfying than it could have been. There's a particularly effective angel/devil on the shoulder dynamic between Rockwell and Walken, as both men encourage Marty towards writing a completely different kind of movie.
Viewers would be well advised not to go into Seven Psychopaths expecting the kind of film that it was marketed as (for starters, only 4 of the espoused 7 titular characters are of any consequence, or are even who they appear). Fans of McDonagh's previous film, In Bruges, will have an idea of the dramatic whiplash that takes place, especially towards the final act. While Seven Psychopaths isn't nearly as downbeat as that film was, it is every bit as representative of McDonagh's artistic voice and thematic ethos, even as it feels like a slighter work.
Seven Psychopaths is rated R for strong violence and bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use. The film is available on DVD and blu-ray for $17 and $20 respectively. The special features on both releases are relatively sparse, a reedit of the red-band trailer titled "Seven Psycho-cats" being the natural standout.