Seven Reasons Why Seven Psychopaths Probably Won’t Be Terrible (And One Why It Will Be)

Morning after the night before, do I regret fraternising with fanboy agape (lit: the reciprocal human love for God) for Sam Rockwell in my previous-but-one post?  Not even the slightest.

In that semi-coherent daubing, I posited a new Sam Rockwell Academy Award For Superb Awesomeness.  Seven Psychopaths is shaping up to be in the reckoning for this award, along with much of its cast.

Nota bene: the Sam Rockwell Academy Award For Superb Awesomeness can apply to films and people equally.

Without much further ado about nothing, then, here are some reasons why Seven Psychopaths probably won’t be terrible:

1: In Bruges

Martin McDonagh made In Bruges.  Ok, the film was only half as good as people said – Brendan Gleeson representing the good half – but it was a strong debut effort from McDonagh, an odd couple buddy movie and a crime caper that wasn’t anything like as stale as those tags suggest it absolutely should have been.

In Bruges was well-paced with decent flourishes of camera and script.  McDonagh wisely relied on Brendan Gleeson to anchor the film as both elder statesman and moral core.  He gave an assured and nuanced performance, far more effective than the more prosaic qualities of nominal lead, Colin Farrell.

2: The Cast

Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson.  Three actors who can do funny, subtle, hammy scenery chewing and unsettling all at once.  Potential or one time leading men who can do offbeat character performances aren’t all that common, but McDonagh’s found three.  Then there’s Olga Kurylenko, who can act better in English than most former Bond girls can in their native tongues.  It’s not a stretch to imagine her beating you up without much difficulty, and you’d still fancy her even after she broke your leg.

I’ve only seen Abbie Cornish in Sucker Punch, about which the less said the better.

All terribly watchable, especially:

3: Harry Dean Stanton

Yes Alien belongs to Sigourney Weaver and everyone remembers John Hurt’s serious xenomorph-based stomach problems and Ian Holm’s masterclass in stillness performance as creepy android, Ash.  But Harry Dean Stanton perfectly captures the guy we’d all probably be, bitching about money then coming over all snivelling coward just ‘cos some ginormous extraterrestrial insect that bleeds acid wants to hump and/or eat everyone on board.  Bet he regretted looking for that damned cat, too.

He also boasts a CV and address book most other actors would kill for.  He was probably cast for the anecdotes alone.

4: Tom Waits

Tom Wait is said to be working with McDonagh on a stage musical, which is probably how he got the job on this film, but don’t let that fool you – Tom Waits is the rarest of rare beasts.  There are loads of musicians who do films and vice versa.  Think Britney Spears in Crossroads or Russell Crowe’s albums.  Under no circumstances watch or listen to either.  Waits stands apart – watch him in The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus, or Wristcutters: A Love Story.

5: The antagonist has a soft spot for his pet

It’s common enough – hard as nails, macho gangster has an unlikely weakness for something traditionally considered effeminate, in this instance the big softie misses his pet.  And it’s not a manly pet like a bear-dog hybrid; it’s a fluffy little shih tzu.  In order to compensate for being a bit of a girl, he’s got to have a complete overreaction meltdown.  So it’ll play for both laughs and ultraviolence.  Not a bad description of Woody Harrelson, that, either.

6: Mickey Rourke was lined up to play the role but dropped out

Yep, apparently he fell out with McDonagh.  Now Rourke is a phenomenal actor when he really, really feels like it, but when he doesn’t, let’s just say you’d rather watch Justin Bieber on the loo.

Don’t believe me?  Watch Passion Play.


And he was replaced by Woody Harrelson.  I know who I’d rather see.

7: Sophomore Efforts That Weren’t By The Guy Who Did Donnie Darko

AKA: Pulp Fiction.  Less flippant a comparison than you might think – McDonagh and Tarrantino were arguably primarily script men first whose debut features were ostensible genre pieces that had very little to do with their genres, instead focussing on meaty dialogue and relationships.  And Christopher Walken was in Pulp Fiction.  That’s science, that is.

In Bruges isn’t anything like as good as Reservoir Dogs, but it was a strong statement of intent and markedly superior to the majority of debuts.  If McDonagh can build on what he achieved with In Bruges to anything like the extent that Tarrantino built on Reservoir Dogs, this film should be an all too rare treat.

And the reason why it will be terrible:

1:  Colin Farrell

Gleeson is a heavyweight actor in both the sense of focused talent and imposing physical presence.  His conflicted, subtle performance for In Bruges, riven as it was with dichotomies and unspoken emotions, was played against by…Colin Farrell, who played up the cartoonish elements and struggled with the emotional demands placed on him.

Farrell’s pretty and has charisma and charm, and he was excellently cast in Crazy Heart as the sanitised and somewhat superficial, populist singer with obvious star quality.  But the last twenty minutes of Phone Booth alone revealed his limitations as an actor.  Asking him to hold his own against not just Brendan Gleeson but also Ralph Fiennes was just cruel, even if our Ralph delivered a below par performance.

He’s none too convincing when it comes to action roles, although that was hopefully part of the point in casting him.

So, to be fair, he’ll only be a disaster if he’s required to bring some depth to his performance while running around with an AK-47.


So then, seven reasons why it probably won’t be terrible, three of which relate to the cast.  It also won an award at the Toronto Film Festival if that helps.

And if it is totally kaka, the world’s due to end towards the end of December anyway, according to people who couldn’t tell you anything else about long-departed South American civilisations, so it won’t suck for that long.

Sam Rockwell: A Hagiography

Hagiography – noun, plural – phies

  1.  The writing of the lives of the saints
  2. Biography of the saints
  3. any biography that idealises or idolises its subject

There was at one stage an embryo that grew in a womb and which was birthed as a bouncing baby boy.  It was decided shortly thereafter that the boy was a ‘Sam’, a name that means ‘His Name Is God’ or ‘God Has Heard’.  This was clearly auspicious.  

Sam the embryo-that-was with the auspicious name makes for a nice story – the high school dropout turned rebel outsider who came good.

It’s a lie.

Sam Rockwell wasn’t born in the conventional sense, but the truth has been covered up, until now.  One night a comet, nearing the sol side of its orbit, shifted some asteroids into one another.  Well one thing led to another, as it does in space and on dates, and some of the debris and a few smaller asteroids were flung Earthwards where they caused a meteor shower.  The sky lit up – more pyrotechnics than a Rammstein gig.  One meteorite made it to the ground without burning up.  It caused an electromagnetic pulse that took out all the electronics and communications in a tri-county area and caused millions of dollars worth of other infrastructural damage, somewhere in Southern California.  When the authorities reached the crater, there, sitting at the very epicentre of destruction, was Sam Rockwell drinking a cocktail. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

You want a biography, use Wikipedia.  You want an accurate biography with facts in it, don’t use Wikipedia.

If the Academy Awards had any integrity, which they don’t because Braveheart won Best Picture, there would be an annual Sam Rockwell Academy Award For Superb Awesomeness. 

I’ll stop there before this mess digresses into a general, unfocused rant about the Oscars and what criteria they can possibly use to choose Best Picture.  Shakespeare In Love. 

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking why Sam Rockwell, why not all the other deserving men and women?  For example, why not Christopher Walken?

Walken is elevated beyond the realm in which trinkets and baubles can be accolade enough, like a super-evolved, supra-dimensional higher being made entirely of pure energy and facial tics.  That’s why.

Now we’re not about to call Sam Rockwell a saint.  This is a hagiography in the sense of unbecoming, fawning adulation.  The sort of thing one tends to regret the next morning when one has sobered up, rather like the Academy probably did when they woke up to realise they’d given Best Picture to Chicago rather than The Pianist. 

I know what you’re thinking now, you’re thinking that if we’re going to hagiographise and rhapsodise, shouldn’t we, you know, get on with it?

No we shouldn’t.

I think it’s what Sam Rockwell would’ve wanted.

Great art doesn’t bother explaining itself; it’s inscrutable.  You hardly expect me to point out how that applies to Sam Rockwell.  …And you can’t get much more hagiographic than that. 


Moon, being the only part of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Martin Freeman aside, that the film-makers didn’t mess up, adding some element of subtlety to the lead role in Choke, being a grade A shit in Green Mile, not being shit in Green Mile, not letting on that he clearly only did Iron Man 2 for the money, improving every film he’s in, whatever the quality of the film, let’s gloss over that one where Daniel Craig David (bo selecta!) fights aliens while dressed as a cowboy, let’s not gloss over that other cowboy one he appeared in with the ridiculous title, suppressing his natural ability effortlessly to upstage other actors in Frost/Nixon, being described by Roger Ebert as his generation’s Christopher Walken (go-to guy for ‘weird’), being so much more than that faintly damning praise, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Lawn Dogs, being a serious professional without admitting it or being too luvvie about ‘the craft’, Moon.

Aaaannnd breathe.

Just don’t call him a poster boy for indie cool, because that’s the sort of phrase that ought to make one wonder whether we should ever have gone to the trouble of evolving from single-cell organisms.  The Academy’s judgement certainly doesn’t inspire hope for our ability to develop into more complex creatures: Dances With Wolves.

 Next time on Frood: back to foul-tempered histrionics.