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click for full sized poster

Seven

Starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman
Directed by David Fincher

Honestly, I wasn't going to go to see seven. The TV commercial made it look like a real gory slice and dice murder flick and that just isn't to my taste. But CompuServe had an announcement that the writer of the film was going to do an eDrive online conference, so I figured I'd spend the cash.

And, if you haven't figured it out by now, I am a FANATIC about the writing of films. Perhaps because that is one of the things I aspire to. (Oh stop it -- you try and make a living writing criticism. I dare you.)

My feeling has always been, if the writing is good, only incredibly crappy acting, or editing, can destroy it. Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey are good actors. And the writing of Seven is like Ivory Soap -- 99 44/100% good.

The parts of a good mystery are this: 1) a murder is committed, and there are no or few clues. 2) A cop devotes mind, body and soul to solving the crime, finding what other cops have missed. 3) the crime is solved and explained, leaving the audience satisfied that a good story has unraveled -- one that they have (or have not, depending) managed to solve before the police do.

The sole exception was the TV show Columbo, in which the audience KNEW the first and last, and had to figure out how the cop was going to weave a trap that would catch the murderer, based on finding the one clue that may have been missed.

As for Seven, well, two out of three ain't bad.

Each of the murders in Seven are based upon one of the so-called "seven deadly sins of man." If you'd rather not track down and read the movie poster, they are: Pride, Lust, Wrath, Envy, Gluttony, Greed, and Sloth. The five that are, and you should forgive the expression, executed, are brilliantly gruesome in conception and implementation.

Morgan Freeman plays the brainy, analytical type of cop who catches the small details and makes the connections that other cops have missed. It's a nice touch that his character is set to retire in, you guessed it, seven days when the movie begins. It's mentioned once and then never again.

That is the sign of a writer who knows the meaning of the word restraint.

Brad Pitt plays the kind of cop who flies off the handle in explosions of emotional rage. The kind of cop who has just moved from another city for reasons not made crystal clear. The kind of cop who will make an audience overexposed to thousands of hours of bad TV mystery/cop movies, think... "Hmm... I wonder if HE..."

Well, maybe not you. Certainly I. And THAT kind of misleading action is called a McGuffin, a term coined by its creator, Alfred Hitchcock. And its proper use is a sign that the writer truly UNDERSTANDS what makes a good murder mystery movie.

Which, for all but the last few minutes, Seven is. It is truly a DISTURBING movie. I walked out thinking, "what was the point? What was the reason?" Which is actually, the point of Seven. Kevin Spacey's underplaying of the murderer (as opposed to his way over-the-top performance on television's WiseGuy a couple of years ago) destroys any viewer preconception of insanity as basis for characterization.

Then again, I previously characterized Now and Then as a women's movie. It is, I guess, only fair to say that Seven is a guy's movie. For all the men walked out of the theater quiet as mice. The women, on the other hand, were laughing out loud. I heard one say to her date "I can't believe you liked that. It was an incredibly sh---y movie."

I walked out disturbed, thinking, what kind of mind comes up with this, um, stuff? And what is it worth to me? It's definitely better than a rental. It was well written. The characters were well defined and well acted. I even enjoyed Pitt's performance, which I haven't for quite a while. And I wouldn't want to watch it on a television screen because that gives me too many opportunities to stop the tape to do, whatever it is you do when you stop the tape. So . . .

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Seven, he would have paid . . .

$6.00

It was going to be $5.00, and it may be $6.50 when I wake up in the morning, but I don't think much more than that. Seven is written to make you talk about it when you walk out of the theater, and I like my mysteries solved neat and satisfying. And Seven didn't satisfy. But only at the very end.

Click to buy films by David Fincher
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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.