After the abysmal failure of Alien 3, David Fincher held his breath for three years and made a new start with Se7en. His signature style of direction is all over it.

The plot explores the extreme pitch-black side of the human psyche and was entirely the creation of one writer. Andrew Kevin Walker, a former Tower Records employee, conceived, in hell, a heinous story of a serial killer who offs his victims in the style of the Seven Deadly Sins. What was he smoking when he came up with that idea?

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Brad Pitt plays David Mills, a semi-experienced detective who is way ahead of himself. He uproots from a decent precinct, dragging his suffering wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) with him, to transfer to the worst in town - an unnamed, rainier-than-Glasgow Los Angeles - for no other reason than "to make a difference". Good luck.

Morgan Freeman is William Somerset, the most jaded and world-weary cop on the force. He only has a few days with Mills before retiring to a simple life in the country. Mills could learn a lot from him, and if he had any sense, he would. Sadly, this does not happen.

In Fight Club, Fincher exposed the rotten underbelly of a free society, the seedy flipside of American culture that most people pretend doesn't exist. Somerset says the only way to deal with a world this bad is to be apathetic. Mills is morbidly self-confident and believes he can make the world a better place.

Se7en is filthier than a dead stray dog at the bottom of a New Jersey toxic waste dump. It looks so miserable that people nailed to crosses seem happier.

Few scripts make for good reading, but Andrew Kevin Walker's writing is one of the film's many strengths. He explored dark, character-driven horror/drama in shockers such as Brainscan and 8mm, but this is the meanest - and 8mm was very mean indeed. The irony of each victims' death is made entirely justified by the killer's logic behind the madness. Of course, he does not believe he is insane. Just the world he lives in. Haven't you ever felt like that?

It is important for such movies to have an atmosphere and Se7en is so rank that you can smell it. Pitt and Freeman deliver great performances, although Pitt should learn to breathe through his nose and not have constantly pursed lips. It becomes quite annoying.

Se7en is definitely the film that kick-started Fincher's career. Had he made The Game right after Alien 3, there would have been no Fight Club, or Panic Room.

For that tiny minority who knows nothing of the film, it's high time you checked it out. Even if you don't enjoy, you cannot deny its power and effect.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are cops who investigate a series of killings connected by the seven deadly sins.
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Read more Se7en reviews:

Stephen Carty ****1/2

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