In light of our film’s title promise, I figured we could probably manage to squeeze at least one more psychopath into the evening, so I decided to show (yet another) Kids In The Hall skit – this one involving an axe murderer and a neighborhood tool sharpener. Enjoy, with bonus symmetrical sonic landscape!
It didn’t deliver.
With a name like Seven Psychopaths, I kind of expected…I don’t know, seven psychopaths?
Though, to be fair, it started off very promisingly – in the opening scene we saw two mobster-types discussing their current hit, which is on the girlfriend of their own boss (later revealed to be Psychopath #3). I guess he doesn’t like her very much. But while they’re talking, Psychopath #1 (labeled as such with movie animation, even) comes up behind them and caps them both. Then he tosses a pair of Jacks of Diamonds on their corpses – the Jack of Diamonds killer has struck! (Again? First time? I’m not really sure.)
Marty is not a psychopath. He’s just a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who wants to write a screenplay about psychopaths. Specifically, Seven Psychopaths, as that’s the title of his screenplay. Unfortunately, he can’t imagine up any psychopaths at all, so his screenplay is stuck at the title line.
Now is the time on Cinema 1544 Movie Reviews when we compact the plot. The man in the sofa is Billy Bickle. We learn his last name as he talks to himself psychopathically in a mirror (and everybody who has ever seen Taxi Driver groans). He’s a friend of Marty’s, and is trying to help him out on his screenplay by getting him some ideas for psychopaths. For instance, he points out the stories about the Jack of Diamonds killer in the paper. Of course it’s later revealed, when he kills his mistress (and Psychopath #3’s girlfriend…though I’m jumping ahead) that he is not only Psychopath #7, but also the Jack of Diamonds killer, making him Psychopath #1 as well.
The numbers aren’t adding up.
In addition to pointing Marty at the Jack of Diamonds killer, he tells him a story about Psychopath #2. It’s a bit ambiguous, but I believe that Psychopath #2 is the man who killed an Amish girl and later repented of his crime, serving his time in prison while becoming a model Christian, only to be haunted by a creepy Amish stalker – the dead girl’s father. Eventually the stalking is so bad that he slits his own throat, hoping to escape the stalker by going to hell as a suicide. The last thing he sees is the creepy Amish stalker slashing his own throat to follow him.
It didn’t work – because the creepy Amish stalker was miraculously saved at the hospital and forced to wear a cravat for the rest of his life to hide his hideous scar. And, as it turns out, he’s friends with Billy Bickle. It was, as it were, a real story. Now, I should point out that there is some ambiguity in the identity of Psychopath #2 – it might have been creepy Amish stalker dude, but as he’s a pacifist and hasn’t ever actually killed anybody, I’m going with the dead girl-killer, who obviously doesn’t have any more of a role in the film.
Creepy Amish stalker dude (whose name is Hans Kieslowski, so we not only need to add “Polish” to his list of epithets, but also need to point out the obvious reference to Krzysztof Kieslowski the great Polish director – e.g. Blue, shown early in the Cinema 1544 run) is a partner in the Bickle/Kieslowski dognapping business. Seriously. They steal dogs and then collect the reward money.
The business is going pretty well until Billy steals Psychopath #3’s Shih-Tzu. But, given that Billy is already shtupping Psychopath #3’s girlfriend, I think he actually steals this particular dog on purpose. To keep it. Because he likes it. And that may have been the entire goal of the dognapping business in the first place. Psychopath #3 is, shall we say, very upset about his dog’s disappearance, setting into motion a series of events which includes the hospital murder of Hans Kieslowski’s wife in an attempt to get the dog back.
But let’s return to counting Psychopaths.
Psychopath #4 is a Buddhist Monk, fictional even within the narrative of the story, and the only Psychopath actually dreamed up by Marty for his screenplay. He could be cut from the movie altogether and you wouldn’t miss him. He’s fictional, and he doesn’t do anything.
Psychopaths #5 and #6 are introduced when Bickle puts out a want ad – again looking for more psychopath stories. #5 answers the ad and interviews with Marty. It turns out he was an average joe who found a girl (#6) chained in a basement. He freed her, they killed her captor, and then set off together to be serial-killer killers. See, they bring about justice by only killing serial killers. Well, brought about justice, because #5 lost his taste for it while they killed the Zodiac killer and they parted ways. As such, Psychopath #6 doesn’t actually appear in the film outside of flashback.
This subplot could also be completely removed and you’d never miss it. Not even the film’s coda, which involves #5 and runs in the middle of the credits*. You wouldn’t miss that either.
I’ve already mentioned that Psychopath #7 was the same as Psychopath #1. So let’s run through this. #1 – real. #2 – only in flashback. #3 – real. #4 – fictional. #5 – real, but bit part. #6 – only in flashback. #7 – double-counted. A better name for this film really would have been Two Psychopaths and a Creepy Amish Pacifist Dude (which, when I think about it, isn’t too bad of a name for a cult film).
At any rate, with Psychopath #3 looking for them after Psychopath#1/7 has killed his girlfriend (even though he didn’t like her much) and stole his dog, the stooge group (that’s Marty, Billy, and Hans) head out to the desert to do some soul-searching. It takes altogether too long, and results in Hans getting killed in an Amish pacifist fashion, Billy getting killed by Psychopath #3 in full view of the cops (Billy does manage to plant evidence that #3 is the Jack of Diamonds killer, though), and Marty escaping to write his screenplay.
Notably, in the hostage standoff at the end (hostage = Shih-Tzu), Billy does NOT kill the dog with a flare gun. Apparently the studio was not OK with that, which led to this line being inserted by Billy earlier in the film: “You can’t let the animals die in a movie… only the women.”
Ultimately, it’s a funny movie with interesting twists that either takes itself a little too seriously – or perhaps fooled me into thinking it took itself a little too seriously. It severely underdelivers on the number of psychopaths. But it’s worth watching, as I was smiling wryly most of the way through and the yuks occasionally got me to laugh out loud. Just don’t expect a full complement of psychopaths.
*By the way, movies. Putting a coda in the middle of the credits? Yeah, we got it. It’s not new and clever anymore. You can totally knock it off.