September 23, 1995
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Carol Buckland
"Seven" is a gruesome tale about a serial killer who's hell- bent on delivering a sermon against modern depravity. His modus operandi: murders "punishing" the seven deadly sins. (1.1M QuickTime movie) For those of you who didn't pay attention in Sunday school or have forgotten your Dante's "Inferno," those sins are: (in no particular order) gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, pride, wrath and lust. There are seven cardinal virtues, too, but God forbid we should make a movie about them!
To give you an idea of how this killer's mind works: The murder linked to greed involves the taking of a pound of flesh. Not bone. Or cartilage. Or whatever. Only...flesh. Are you getting the idea this flick is not for those with delicate sensibilities?
Anyway. Tracking this sick-o bad guy is a cliche pair of cops. There's the experienced, intellectual African-American cop who's getting ready to retire. Partnered with him (do you feel a bit of buddy bonding coming on?) is a young, eager-to-kick-some-evil-butt white cop.
The Oscar-worthy Morgan Freeman takes the first role. He brings great depth and dignity to the part. His character is wise and world weary but not (no surprise) quite as emotionally burned out as he'd like to believe. In addition to all his other talents, Freeman is an actor who's thoroughly persuasive playing a man who really, truly, uses his head. Some performers read "stupid" on screen. He always projects "smart."
Brad Pitt comes on strong as the young cop. His callowness works well here and he goes a long, long way toward scuzzing up the glamour boy image he acquired in the wake of "Legends Of The Fall". Teeny-boppers attending this movie intending to swoon over his pouting lips and killer bod are going to be disappointed. Possibly even grossed out. His hair is shorn. His face is stubbled and scratched. He also, due to a during-filming-accident, sports a hand cast and/or sling throughout much of the movie. But that said, it's important to emphasize that Pitt does bring a lot of interesting quirks to his character. He even manages to find a touch of humor in several scenes. He's almost always interesting to watch...even if he's half-obscured by murky shadows!
Gwyneth Paltrow (Pitt's real-life lady) plays the young cop's loving and oh-so-vulnerable wife. She's very good -- a ray of sunshine breaking through a great deal of gloom. She also seems like a sacrificial lamb from the second she turns up on screen.
Kevin Spacey (a co-star of the excellent "The Usual Suspects") plays the serial killer. He gives one of his patented creepy-crazy performances. His is a quiet insanity and it makes your flesh crawl.
Speaking of flesh. If the "pound of" reference earlier didn't make you queasy...how about a full figure shot of a naked dead guy who weighs oh, maybe four hundred pounds? Plus dialogue references to (I think this was it) "rectal ruptures"?
"Seven" was scripted by newcomer Andrew Kevin Walker. It's chock full of literary illusions -- including the Marquis de Sade, Chaucer and Helter Skelter. The characters are basically cardboard, although the actors do their best to give them more than one dimension. To say the ending (which I won't give away) is a bummer is to understate the case.
Director David Fincher's (Alien 3) work runs the gamut from provocatively inventive to just plain pretentious. He's really into rainy-days-and-dim-lighting, which makes this film visually depressing from start to almost finish. There are some extremely striking visual images in this film (a fingerprint technician discovering a clue, for instance; or a SWAT team going through a forced entrance). There are also ones that will turn your stomach.
All in all, "Seven " is a very twisted number. If you're feeling bad about the state of the world, I can almost guarantee this film will make you feel much, much worse. The movie is riveting in a gut-twisting way, but I, myself, would not call it "entertaining."
Note: "Seven " is rated 'R'. That's for language, violence and a lot of repugnant visual images.
And finally, in the interests of full disclosure, please note that "Seven " is from New Line Cinema. New Line Cinema is a Turner Company. That's Turner, as in Ted (CNN) Turner.
(Pictures and movie clip courtesy New Line Cinema.)
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