“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.