Movie Review: “Se7en” (1995)

Detective Lt. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is so close to retiring he can taste it. On his list of primary action items before leaving the force is breaking in his new partner, David Mills (Brad Pitt) who has recently transferred in. Mills is happily married to Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), who hates the new city, but tolerates it for her husband’s sake.

Even though he’s a short-timer, a horrific series of murders is thrown into Somerset’s lap. A psycho with more than a passing taste for the theatrical seems to patterning his crimes after Dante’s list of the Seven Deadly Sins. It seems as if the killer has a point to make, and his final tally will hit closer to home for Somerset and Mills than they could have ever imagined.

Spawning scores of pale imitators, Se7en is a milestone in the horror genre. Not only did it propel director David Fincher into the limelight as one of America’s “hot young directors,” but it terrified and disgusted scores of moviegoers back into a love affair with the art of bloodletting. Arguably the most important “serial killer with a point” movie, Se7en grabs the viewer by the short hairs and never lets go, not even after the movie has ended.

Gwyneth Paltrow is pretty much a non-entity in Se7en

Grimy industrial elements are a major factor in this movie, from the soundtrack which includes music from Nine Inch Nails and Gravity Kills to the fact that it never stops raining. This movie and The Crow had more to do with elevating the Goth lifestyle to prominence than any album by Skinny Puppy. It is a harsh look at life and death.

Unlike most horror movies that preceded it, Se7en revels in its own moral ambiguity. The killer, John Doe (a bald and eerily calm Kevin Spacey), is either so good he’s bad or so bad he’s good. That’s really up to the viewer to decide. What a perfect mirror for society after the cocaine and new wave of the 1980’s. Don’t some people deserve to die? asks this movie. And is there any reason why that person who does deserve it isn’t me?

Se7en

Morgan Freeman, jowly and wrinkled, is perfect in his role as Det. Lt. Somerset. Brad Pitt approaches his performance with a bit too much cockiness. When his character is required to hit critical mass towards the end, we don’t quite buy it. It’s akin to Nicholson in The Shining; it doesn’t come as a surprise when he goes crazy, because he’s been crazy the whole time. Gwyneth Paltrow is pretty much a non-entity in Se7en, much as she has been in anything else she’s appeared in, and in her own life, as far as I know. Or care. She’s a buck-toothed whiny beast.

Much has been made of the imaginative death sequences in Se7en. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you will have undoubtedly seen some of its rip-offs, like the execrable Resurrection with Christopher Lambert. This may deaden some of the shock for you. But the literal and grotesque ways in which John Doe goes about his mission of destruction and instruction packs a punch even now, ten years later. For instance, the sin of ‘gluttony’ is depicted by a morbidly obese man who was force fed spaghetti until his stomach exploded. I won’t even get into what happens to the embodiment of ‘lust.’ Ugh.

The killer, John Doe (a bald and eerily calm Kevin Spacey)

Se7en certainly needs to be seen by any serious horror fan with the warning that this sure as hell isn’t a date movie. It’s a downer, it’s intense and it won’t give too many women that warm squishy feeling. It’s a great movie, though, and even if you don’t get couch-head out of it, you’ll still know you’ve been through something amazing.