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Film / Seven Psychopaths

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Zach: My name is Zachariah Rigby, I left a message on Billy's telephone in answer to the advertisement.
Billy: Well, I tell you, Zachariah. If you sounded like a nut, I probably just deleted you.
Zach: ...I don't think I sounded like a nut.
Billy: Were you screaming about eating my heart off a tray and then shitting on it?
Zach:, I wouldn't do that.
Billy: Okay, you seem normal. Come on in. We gotta get this dog off the street because it's kidnapped from a maniac.
Zach: Dandy.

Seven Psychopaths is a 2012 British-American black comedy crime film written and directed by Martin McDonagh, starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, and Olga Kurylenko.

Marty Faranan (Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter who's currently attempting to get his latest screenplay (titled Seven Psychopaths) past the title and stuck at the first hurdle of who and what the seven psychopaths are, especially so as he doesn't want it to be a stock Summer Blockbuster thriller about men with guns. Thus, Marty starts hanging out with his best friend and dog-kidnapper Billy Bickle (Rockwell), who does his best to help him out. Unfortunately for Marty, Billy isn't happy enough helping with writing, and attempts to get things moving by putting out a personal ad asking actual psychopaths to contact them.

Meanwhile, Billy's partner-in-crime Hans Kieslowski (Walken) soon learns the hard way that a Shih Tzu they recently took named Bonny belongs to Charlie Costello (Harrelson), an excessively-violent, short-tempered gangster with a rather creepy obsession with his dog. Naturally, things soon go to Hell very quickly and Marty soon finds himself trapped in a very difficult (albeit script-inspiring) situation and surrounded by several psychopaths.

Released in the United States on October 12, 2012, the film received strong praise from both critics and the public, like its predecessor.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Hans. Even when he drove his daughter's killer to suicide, he never laid a hand on him.
    • Also, Martin. He doesn't believe in guns.
    Costello: Don't you wish you had a gun now?
    Martin: No.
  • Advertised Extra: Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko. The former only appears for a handful of brief scenes, and the latter appears exactly twice, the latter of which is briefly as a corpse.
  • Affably Evil: Zachariah. He even spares Marty when its clear he's been having a rough time.
  • Afterlife Avenger: Billy Bickle recounts a story about the Quaker Psychopath, who relentlessly hounds the killer of his daughter from a vehicular hit-and-run with a hateful stare and grants him no peace, before and after the killer goes to prison undergoes a Faith–Heel Turn. To escape the Quaker's constant Death Glare and constant guilt, the killer is Driven to Suicide. However, before he dies the killer sees the Quaker drawing a razor and slitting his own throat, non-verbally swearing to hound the killer into whatever afterlife he ends up.
  • The Alcoholic: Marty, though he denies it.
  • Anti-Climax: Zigzagged when it comes to the final shootout. Billy called Charlie to come pick up his dog, and Billy makes Charlie promise he'll come alone and unarmed. But Billy is fully expecting him to do neither of these things. So then when Charlie does come alone and unarmed, Billy is pretty angry about it. However we soon realize Charlie did come with people right behind him. So then we briefly get a shoot out, but then the ending still ends up being anti-climactic, because when Billy tries to pull a suicide by villain the villain's gun jams. They talk some more and the villain tries again and his gun jams again. They talk some more and finally Charlie shoots Billy.
  • Anti-Hero: Billy Bickle is a killer, sure but (at first) only killed bad people, hitmen and gangsters. Moves into Nominal Hero territory towards the middle.
  • Anyone Can Die: Billy and Hans.
  • Arc Words: Billy repeatedly asks the Shih Tzu for "Paw. Paw. Paw." These are not unexplained, but rather unrequited until after Billy has a bullet in the head.
  • Author Avatar: Colin Farrell plays an Irish screenwriter named "Martin".
  • Ax-Crazy: Billy, to an extent.
  • The Atoner: The killer in Marty's script.
  • Badass Pacifist: The Quaker Psychopath never uses a weapon — he just manages to unnerve a man (who killed the Quaker's daughter in a hit-and-run) into committing suicide by implacably chasing him everywhere and hatefully glaring him.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: Being a film about writing a script, tropes are lampshaded, discussed and deconstructed rather often. This becomes more apparent as it gets further into the film, as Marty talks more about his work with Hans and Billy, they make more suggestions (which include common tropes).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Billy and Hans are both dead, but Charlie is locked up and Marty has finished his screenplay. Whether Marty is actually in a better place is a bit ambiguous.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: There are very few 'good' guys, just people who are not as bad as the others. The heroes, after all, kidnap dogs and scam their owners.
    • Marty is pretty White, not being involved in the dog kidnapping and clearly disapproving of it, as well as being an Actual Pacifist. The worst thing about him is that he's The Alcoholic and is not very nice to his girlfriend
  • Black Comedy
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Noted through a crude remark from Charlie.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Throughout the film, but especially prominent when Billy explains his proposed ending.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The Jack of Diamonds specializes in these.
  • Brainless Beauty: The Hooker in Martin's first draft comes across as a bit of an airhead. Amusingly, in Hans' rewrite she is turned into an intellectual who studied Vietnamese at Yale. Though even here she is turned into a beautiful American woman the Vietnamese monk saw in passing but didn't meet.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Zachariah's phone call to Marty during the end credits. See The Stinger.
    • Charlie's gun jamming at inopportune moments.
  • Call-Back: The two imaginary scenarios of the Quaker and the Vietnamese priest.
  • Cast Full of Crazy: Well yeah, the title hints pretty heavily at this.
  • Casting Gag: Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg as gangsters.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: A Black Comedy-esque take of "comedic." Largely Deconstructed with Billy, who can barely put forward a veneer of superficial charm and who eagerly lies and endangers his friends and lovers in hopes of getting along with them.
  • Country Matters: Billy uses the term cunt several times over the movie, including as a term for Marty's girlfriend.
  • Covers Always Lie: Several promo materials label non-psychopathic characters as one of the seven psychopaths simply because they're notable/recognizable actors. In actuality, Angela, Kaya and Marty aren't any of the numbered psychopaths, and the poster obviously ignores the twist that the first and the seventh are the same person.
  • Cluster F-Bomb
  • Dead Man Writing: After Hans dies, Marty finds the tape recorder he was using to take notes on the screenplay.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marty and Hans
  • Deconstruction: Once the movie moves out to the desert, it becomes a straight up deconstruction of action and revenge films.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • First there's this:
      Marty: That's just fucking great! Oh great! Do you know what that is?
      Hans: Yeah.
      Marty: Do you know what that is?
      Hans: Great?
      Marty: That's just fucking great!
    • Then moments after:
      Marty: This guy just telephoned a psycho-killer to come down and psycho-kill us!
  • Determinator: Charlie.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Zachariah's planning to kill Marty for forgetting to put his message to Maggie at the end of his movie.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Billy with his flare gun during the final shoot-out.
  • Dying Dream: Hans' resolution to the Vietnamese psychopath's story: rather than getting revenge over the My Lai Massacre by attacking American civilians as he's shown doing, the act turns out to be his thoughts of what could have been before he becomes the first Buddhist monk to burn himself to death in protest of the war.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Bonnie is probably the only thing Charlie truly has any concern for.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • All of the other characters, including the murderous psychopaths, are appalled by Marty's drinking problem. One scene even has Hans, a man pursued by serial killers and high from Peyote abuse, criticizing Marty's use of alcohol:
      Hans: You might wanna stop drinking, Martin, if this is the way you're gonna behave.
      Marty: If this is the way I'm gonna— this guy just telephoned a psycho-killer to come down and psycho-kill us! And this guy's doubting a lifelong belief in the afterlife because of a psychedelic cactus he just ate! And you motherfuckers are telling me to behave?
    • And later:
      Charlie: Is he drinking and driving?
    • Zachariah calls Marty at the end to tell him he is going to kill Marty for not putting his name in the credits like he was supposed to. When Marty responds with resigned acceptance, Zachariah seems to realize something happened and decides to let him live.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Hans' wife in the hospital when cornered by Charlie.
      Myra: You figure it out, dumb-ass.
    • Hans also tells Marty to "have some faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior" and resist interrogation when Charlie's mooks have them at gunpoint.
    • Hans himself, when threatened by Charlie's Mooks, refuses to comply with their demands at all, causing them to become utterly flabbergasted. He eventually pretends to pull a gun on them, causing them to shoot him
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: The movie starts to fade to credits as Marty finishes his screen play and happy music plays, only for the film to continue in a matter of seconds with Zachariah reminding Marty that he forgot his message to Maggie in the credits and he was going to kill him. Marty responds with weak acceptance. Zachariah notices his tone and seems to decide to spare him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Charlie can be pretty well spoken and have moments of genuine kindness to Bonnie, but he's mentally unstable and will pretty much kill anything that moves.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • From the point where Hans, Billy and Marty are all in the car, everything they say about what should happen in their screenplay happens in the film, from the main characters "just sitting around talking" to the details and location of the "big shootout."
    • When Billy tells Martin about the Quaker Psychopath, he mentions that he heard the story from a friend. And in Hans' first scene with Myra, they mention having lost a child.
      • There's several hints to the identity of the Quaker Psychopath prior to its unveiling: Billy mentions the reason Hans is holding up is that he's christian, Hans' scar on his neck from his botched suicide. He does not drink. His first action after his wife's death is to stare down her killer to creep him out.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Occasional.
    • At one point, Hans flat out refuses to put his hands up during a stick up, to which the mook points out it doesn't make any sense.
    • At one point Billy helps to write a shootout scene for Marty's script; not only do Marty and Hans point out that nobody would trust a villain to come alone, nobody ever expects him to be unarmed either. In the real life ending, however, Charlie actually comes alone and unarmed simply because they told him to.
      • Ultimately reconstructed in this instance since while Charlie only brings a flare-gun with him to the initial shootout, his plan was evidently to fire the flare at some point to signal his mooks (who were armed).
    • Billy also tips Marty that, even in the most violent of movie genres, it's always fine to kill off women but you can't even harm animals.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Billy after Bonnie finally responds to his "Paw." requests.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Charlie when it comes to his dog, Bonnie. Granted, he is a psychopath, but when his dog walker loses his Shih Tzu, he has her hunted down, tied to a chair, and then starts threatening to murder her. He does settle for shooting the wall behind her when she's found innocent, however.
  • The Heavy: None of the movie would have happened without Billy's actions.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Billy gets himself killed by Charlie to save Marty's life, although he may have just really wanted to die violently.
    • Hans fakes going for a gun so that the hitmen will kill him and make it more difficult for them to get to Marty and Billy.
  • Hidden Depths: All of the main characters, and very nearly all of the side characters.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: An interpretation of Billy. Hard to have one when you're a vulgar, amoral nutcase, but he does sometimes show that he wants to help with Marty's problems.
  • Historical In-Joke: The serial killers that Zachariah and Maggie murder are is listed as Phantom Killer, Butcher of Kingsbury Run, and "Zodiac". These come from real, unsolved cases.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Combined with Hypocritical Heartwarming when Kaya tries to calm Marty down at the party:
      Marty: Don't you fucking start.
      Billy: Yeah, don't you fucking start.
      Marty: Don't talk to her like that!
    • Zach and Maggie find they have a shared passion for locating monstrous serial killers and murdering them horribly.
    • Billy calls the Jack of Diamonds a "psychopath". He is the Jack of Diamonds.
    • There's also the bits regarding the Female characters in the film. See Self-Deprecation.
  • Jerkass: Billy is probably the worst offender.
  • Irony: Despite the title, none of the characters would qualify as actual psychopaths, despite all having anti social tendences.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Everywhere once they head out to the desert.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A whole movie of it. Marty is working on a film called Seven Psychopaths, and the story of the film he's writing is directly inspired by the real events around him, which make up the plot of the real film. Their conversations about their film directly correspond to the actual film they're in.
  • Little "No": Hans when he gets a gun pointed at him.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Billy, in line with his overt interpersonal relationship issues.
  • Melting-Film Effect: The end credits are interrupted by this, leading into Zacariah calling Marty and promising to kill him.
  • Metafictional Title: Seven Psychopaths is primarily about a man trying to finish a screenplay titled Seven Psychopaths.
  • Metaphorgotten: The "Gandhi" bit:
    Hans: Well, as Gandhi said...
    Billy: Oh, you two. If it ain't Gandhi, it's Jesus Christ.
    Hans: "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." I believe that wholeheartedly.
    Billy: (several beats) No, it doesn't. There'll be one guy left with one eye. How's the last blind guy gonna take out the eye of the last guy left who's still got one eye? All that guy has to do is run away and hide behind a bush! Gandhi was wrong, it's just that nobody's got the balls to come right out and say it.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: Marty hits the table and shouts "what we should do in real life" emotionally and with rhetorical pauses in the trailer and says the same thing seriously and almost calmly in the movie.
  • Morality Pet:
    • Bonnie is a literal one for Charlie.
    • Zachariah's rabbit. Though he makes it quite clear it won't necessarily keep him from killing Marty.
    What, you think I'm not serious just because I carry a rabbit around?
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Marty is a struggling writer who dreams of finishing his screenplay "Seven Psychopaths".
  • Ms. Fanservice: The hooker, who spends most of her screen time clad in only a pair of panties.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Billy's reaction after Hans tells him Charlie killed his wife.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers go into little detail on the screenwriting plot, choosing instead to focus on the dognapping subplot. This probably confused a lot of filmgoers who were expecting a much lighter comedy. Also there's that whole matter of portraying Christopher Walken killing a bunch of folk, despite the fact that he's actually a pacifist who doesn't kill a single person outside of the imagination scene from the screenplay.
  • Non-Indicative Name: There are only six "psychopaths" in the film. Billy is counted twice. Although you could arguably count Myra as the 7th, since she participated in the same scheme that gets Hans labelled a psychopath.
  • Only Sane Man: Marty.
  • Pet the Dog: Charlie lets his dog caretaker live after finding out about the scam Billy and Hans run, realizing she wasn't at fault. But only after he scares the hell out of her by firing a shot into the wall, barely missing her head.
  • Perspective Flip: The Quaker's tale after Hans is revealed to be him.
  • Political Overcorrectness: When Marty is done telling Billy the Vietnamese Psychopath's story, Marty feels dissatisfied about it. Billy then gives his thoughts on Marty's response.
    Billy: That's a great fuckin' psychopath Marty!
    Marty: (sighs) Yeah... But it's not what I wanna really be writin' about anymore.
    Billy: (Beat) Hey, new idea! How 'bout we change the title from The Seven Psychopaths to The Seven Lesbians Who Are All Disabled and Have Overcome All Their Spazzy Shit and Are Really Nice to Everybody and Two of Them Are Black. How 'bout that?
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Charlie makes racist and homophobic comments throughout.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Charlie is of the unstable, dangerous variety while Billy is of the obnoxious and unpredictable kind.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Hans, when Marty suggests that they should go to the cops. As funny in the film as it is in the trailer.
    • Also Billy (on more than one occasion):
      Marty: Are you pissed at me, baby?
      Kaya: (sarcastic) Why would I be pissed at you, Marty?
      [she stomps out the room]
      Billy: Because you're a cunt?
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Billy is shot in the head, and lasts for another few seconds, managing to croak out "Paw, Paw, Paw".
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Hans is a very devout old-fashioned Christian. His faith is specifically mentioned as the source of his confidence and tranquility.
  • The Reveal: Billy is the Jack of Diamonds and Hans is the Quaker Psychopath.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Billy kills Charlie's girlfriend after Charlie kills Hans' wife.
  • Running Gag: " paw."
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: The two hitmen at the start of the film are talking about people getting shot through their eyes.
  • Self-Deprecation: Hans telling Author Avatar Martin that "Your women characters are awful. Half of them got nothing to say. The other half get shot or stabbed in the first five minutes."
  • Self-Immolation: The Vietmanese priest in Hans' addition to Marty's script.
  • Serial-Killer Killer:
    • Zachariah and Maggie, according to the former's testimony.
    • Arguably the Jack of Diamonds, since most of the mid-level mafia and Yakuza sorts he's targeted, such as the hitmen in the intro, are all killers.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Billy's Script calls for a particularly Fanservice-heavy variety with Marty's girlfriend.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: Hans invokes this in a Heroic Sacrifice so that the hitmen will draw the attention of the police.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The two hitmen in the beginning are talking about a scene from The Godfather, specifically the Trope Namer for the Moe Greene Special.
    • There's no way Billy Bickle's surname isn't a reference to Taxi Driver, especially since we first hear it during his Mirror Monologue.
    • The opening scene features two ‘’Boardwalk Empire’’ alumni. Michael Pitt portrayed Jimmy Darmody: in the series, his wife was named Angela (the same name as his intended victim in the film) and his son’s name was Tommy (the name of his partner in the film). Both characters are killed by a gunshot through the cheek.
  • Show Within a Show: Seven Psychopaths is the name of the screenplay Marty's writing.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Charlie is mocking Marty over his men killing Hans:
    Charlie: Don't you wish you had a gun now?
    Marty: ...No, I don't. So why don't you go fuck yourself?
  • The Sociopath: The overwhelming majority of the titular Seven Psychopaths, unsurprisingly. The Quaker is one of the more ethical, while Charlie, Zachariah, Maggie, and especially the Jack of Diamonds are outright frightening.
  • The Stinger: Zachariah calls up Marty to say that he's going to kill him for not sticking his message to Maggie at the end of his film as promised. Although this scene actually is that message, which is why Zach leaves him alone.
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: The reason the Real Life serial killers the Phantom Killer, Cleveland Torso Murderer and Zodiac Killer were never caught? They were killed by Zach and Maggie. Maybe.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Charlie and Billy each refer to the other as "a psycho", and they're both right.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: How Billy's proposed shoot out sequence plays out.
  • Threat Backfire: Early in the film, one of the psychopaths Marty interviewed for research (Zachariah) threatens Marty that if he doesn't add a secret message for Zachariah's girlfriend, he will kill him. In the film's epilogue, he calls Marty to point that he broke his promise and warns him that he feels bound to carry out his threat in turn, but Marty is so fed up with life after everything he went through during the course of the story that doesn't really do he anything to defend himself. Zachariah for his part eventually notices Marty's depression, apologizes, hangs up, and resolves to leave Marty alone.
  • Tropes Are Tools: In-Universe; since Marty is writing a film, several tropes are lampshaded and deconstructed.
  • Title Drop: All over the place.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The burning monk is based on the famous real-life incident.
  • Villain Protagonist: Billy Bickle sort of sees himself as this.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kaya, other than her appearance in the imaginary shoot out scene, never reappears after kicking Marty out, and we never know if she reconciled with him. Since he's shown still living at Billy's place at the end, it seems unlikely.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Billy.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Marty is particularly disapproving of the fact that Billy killed a woman. This is foreshadowed in the beginning, when one of the two hitmen asks the other if he's nervous about killing a woman.
  • Your Head Asplode: In Billy's proposed ending, this happens to Charlie. Lampshaded by Hans and Marty.
    Hans: A head can't really explode just because it's shot, right?
    Marty: It can... if it's filled with explosives.