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Seven Psychopaths

Colin Farrell tells a whopper.

DIRECTED BY MARTIN MCDONAGH

Credit the unsung editor behind Seven Psychopaths’ snappy trailer for cutting something lively out of the uncanny husk that is Martin McDonagh’s film. Like a rejected Kevin Williamson script from the late 1990s, back from its bottom-drawer grave to avenge the chatty self-indulgence of Scream-era slashers, McDonagh’s film sputters to undead life, wasting everything in its path, including the ace ensemble.

Colin Farrell plays frustrated screenwriter Marty, a thinly veiled surrogate for McDonagh, who lets himself off easy despite his stand-in’s alcoholism. Blocked in his efforts to write a redemptive film about seven serial murderers, Marty turns to his best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), a professional dog kidnapper who puts him in league with the titular hit parade of psychopaths, all of whom are happy to be a part of the messy story we’re ostensibly watching unfold.

It’s the least of the film’s problems that when they’re revealed, this motley crew of fine comic actors—including Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken—don’t actually add up to seven, and don’t seem all that psychotic, either. (Mental illness is just one of the many identity categories McDonagh glibly refashions for the hell of it; anyone wondering what the once-interesting, Drama Desk–winning playwright thinks about straight guys calling each other “gay” should be just as pleased by the many exchanges on that subject.) What grates is the insufferable smugness of the conceit—its audacity to limply satirize a genre that doesn’t even exist, or at the very least has no obvious antecedents. If there’s an uplifting but hyper-violent crime film about an eccentric killer out there, at any rate, it’s probably more cogent and more watchable than Seven Psychopaths.

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