I once attempted to write a review of this film towards the end of 2015, but I had come down with a case of the norovirus, and found myself unable to focus, so I continue writing it at the time. Now, over a year later, I went back and reviewed it again, this time without having to live with a lingering stomach virus. Abundantly praised by critics for its edgy, then-contemporary style, Seven appears to be more of a film of style than of substance, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Seven manages to accomplish the rare feat of having both good style and an engaging story, even if it plays into the occasional cliché now and then.
Set in a bleak city reminiscent of New York City, the story concerns the ageing detective William Somerset, who is soon to retire but is called for one last case, in which he is partnered with the young, short-tempered David Mills, who is set to replace him at the end of the week. Together they reluctantly work to track down a deranged serial killer whose creative methods of killing people are overtly linked to the seven deadly sins, seeing the case all the way to its ghastly conclusion.
At its core, it’s essentially a genre thriller with more layers of sophistication compared to what you usually get in the market. There were already plenty of films with deranged serial killer antagonist, but this film has a certain dark, edgy quality that distinguishes it from others. The pacing is quite slow, but there are plenty of riveting plot twists that can keep you engaged, though that’s not the only way the film manages to do so. The film’s main asset is in its visceral shock thrills, which come from the trail of grotesque imagery that the killer leaves behind.
Although I think the performances were a bit low-key, I feel that the actors did a good job playing their respective characters. Morgan Freeman seems to be a good fit as the retiring detective who’s seen far too much throughout his career. As for Brad Pitt, this seems like the kind of film that Brad Pitt could do well in, and he plays his character quite convincingly, in the sense that I mostly believe that his character would act in the way that he does. Of course, the villain of the story had the best performance, with Kevin Spacey injecting a dose of self-righteous madness into the heavily grim atmosphere lingering over the film.
The film’s greatest asset is its consistently dark style. There’s a notable absence of colour in the film’s visuals, and I think it was quite deliberate. The other main component would be the gory special effects, which, without the kitsch found in many slasher horror films, the visceral horror has an added sting, which is odd because this was never intended as a horror film. There’s sort of a brutal realism to the film’s overall style, and yet the murder scenes seem quite exaggerated, but the chilling part is that it’s not outside the realm of possibility. It’s quit easy to imagine some sicko committing murders like those in the film.
In that sense, Seven is a very compelling film. I don’t consider it a neo-noir classic, but it’s strangely effective for what is effectively a slightly more sophisticated genre film. It’s a little overrated, but over the years that high praise still proves well-earned.
- Score: 81%
- Grade: B