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Poster Lab: Seven Psychopaths

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Poster Lab: <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>

No, it’s not just you—the poster for Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths looks awfully familiar, despite the blinding neon green it uses to lasso your attention. Not long ago, you saw a markedly similar lineup of badass characters, glaring out at you from the one-sheet for Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. Like that memorable image, which put Brad Pitt front and center in a stylish hat, the new ad features one guy in the contrasting gleam of a leather jacket, and another in a heavy coat that highlights his exasperated, straight-man’s shrugged shoulders. But it’s more than just single file and fashion that unites these two posters. Seven Psychopaths follows Snatch’s lead so fully that it even opts to spike its plot—and, subsequently, advertising—with a little dog too. Instead of Pitt’s leashed, squeak-toy-swallowing pooch, there’s a wee, fluffy Shih Tzu, whose ironic cuteness speaks to McDonagh’s light-black tone, and who reportedly serves as the movie’s MacGuffin. However fun it may be to eye up a row of attractive rogues, it’s a tad disheartening that this Irish maestro’s latest had to plainly mirror a cult British production, as if there’s only one way to sell Euro crime comedies.

Of course, this design has sprung up on U.S. shores too, never more notably than with the iconic one-sheet for The Usual Suspects. Curiously, this poster also includes our two character-defining wardrobe quirks: the leather-jacketed wild card and the heavy-shouldered straight man. (What’s more, The Usual Suspects and Snatch even share the coolness-boosting presence of Benicio del Toro.) Rather than plugging in the height chart, the design for Seven Psychopaths counts off its perpetrators from below, and conveniently plugs its magic number into the title’s text (and we all know where we’ve seen that before). Its best numerical flourish is seen at top right, where the actors are numbered again in accordance with their left-to-right appearance—a probable jab at that maddening marketers’ practice, which bills stars in terms of clout instead of poster placement.

Though it’s usually reserved for big-name properties like Harry Potter and The Dark Knight, Film 4 and CBS Films have sprung for the character-poster treatment here as well, giving each of the seven not-quite-sane players (Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, and Olga Kurylenko) his her or very own poster design. Rockwell, number four, gets a half-threatening ad with the dog in tow, his tagline reading, “He won’t take any Shih Tzu.” The same goes for numero-uno Kurylenko, whose near-identical one-sheet declares, “She thinks she’s hot Shih Tzu.” We think so too, but this whole campaign feels a little too much like an out-of-ideas amalgam of methods from surer-footed projects. It’s definitely worth huffing it to McDonagh’s follow-up to In Bruges, but are Seven Psychopaths’s sales tactics, as they say, “the Shih Tzu?” Not by a bloody long shot.