“Seven Psychopaths” as a Commentary on Filmmaking

“Seven Psychopaths” seems to write itself as the story unravels. It is about a writer. Marty, writing a film called “Seven Psychopaths,” that, viewers find, mirrors the movie that they are about to watch. Marty’s friend Billy has an idea of the movie that Marty should be writing, and takes steps to help him get there. Billy has good intentions, and only wants to help his friend. Yet, we find that the actions he takes to help have very real consequences.  Ultimately ending in real-life violence, despite Marty wanting the situation (and his movie) to end peacefully.

A commentary on screen violence and Hollywood’s influence over writers seems to emerge. Writer/director McDonagh seems to point out real-life consequences of violence, when movies typically portray it as something so casual and even glorify bloodshed. Billy wanted Marty to finish his film, but he wanted it to be written his way. Meaning, to be a film filled with violence and ending with an emotional and intense final shoot out, the way crime movies so typically do. Billy ultimately strands Marty, Hans, and himself and calls the psychotic and irrational Charlie to come after them to seek revenge for the kidnapping of his dog. In this way, Billy can be seen as representing the way Hollywood and society influence film. He forces his hand into the story and takes control to make it play out the way he wants it to, similarly to the way societal attitudes and Hollywood itself plays a role in changing the way films play out. (I am reminded of the story told in class about how the original ending included the death of the dog, but McDonaugh was advised not to as an American audience would not respond well to that; an example of how writers original ideas are changed to fit with what will be well-received). In this reading, Marty represents the creative, individualistic filmmaker who’s ideas are changed to fit a certain mold.

Marty points out all of the cliches of the genre, and insists that his movie should be different. But, Billy thinks his movie should involve all the usual ingredients. As the “real-life” events unfold in tandem with Marty’s writing process, the inevitable violence and death that occur as a result of Billy’s interventions show how hard it is for writers to break free of convention.

-Kate Schulz

3 thoughts on ““Seven Psychopaths” as a Commentary on Filmmaking

  1. Kate, I also agree that this film provides an interesting perspective on filmmaking in Hollywood. This movie, like you mentioned, is very aware of itself as a movie, as demonstrated through Marty’s movie script being mirrored in the actual film. Its critique of the way in which men, women, violence, love, and peace are typically portrayed in movies is not only smart but accurate. You mention how Billy represents Hollywood’s influence upon movies, but I would also argue that Marty’s desired ending is also cliché and stereotypical in Hollywood. Most often, Hollywood films either end in violence or love/peace, the former which is expected and the latter is more often than not contrived, which as you mention is a ploy to appeal to mass audiences. In my opinion, the best films are those that don’t conclude on either end of this spectrum that Hollywood has enforced; rather, I think the best films are those that truly represent life as complicated and whose endings are ambiguous. Hans’ notes about Marty’s screenplay represent the kind of ending I appreciate in a film. The inner turmoil of the monk in sacrificing himself for a cause demonstrates a complex situation that is not merely violent or simply pacifying, but rather a mixture of the two, and it leaves the audience to decide for themselves how they feel about the monk rather than pushing a narrative on them. The film, Seven Psychopaths, also achieves this through its complex characters; to me, none of them are merely violent/evil or peaceful/good. Each character is a mixture of both, which is something an audience of imperfect people can relate to, which also helps them to recognize the message of the film – to be critical of the films that Hollywood creates and the narratives that Hollywood tries to instill in society through them.

  2. I definitely agree with your review of the film, especially as a commentary of film making. One of the moments that makes me think about film making the most is the scene in the car where a whole action sequence is described as they drive through the desert, and the characters talk about cliche scenes and character tropes. I really think its interesting how Marty and Billy disagree about how cliche the film should be, because some movie-goers want a classic or more cliche film, and others want to see something different.

  3. I think it’s important to take note on the commentary of filmmaking because of how prominent it was to Seven Psychopaths. Hollywood changes their way of films to fit what they think we want to see, but a lot of times it does the total opposite. If Hollywood think we want to see blood, they give us blood. And vise versa. But they don’t think of us as wanting to see something with realistic results which is what’s film and the producer does for us. McDonaugh gives us real expectations through the repercussions of violence, the way he portrays each scene, and the analysis and personalities of each character.

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