Two homicide detectives' desperately hunt for a serial killer who justifies his crimes as absolution for the world's ignorance of the Seven Deadly Sins. The killer tortures one victim to the next as the sociopathic "John Doe" sermonizes to Detectives Sommerset and Mills -- one sin at a time. The seasoned and cultured Sommerset researches the Seven Deadly Sins in an effort to understand the killer's modus operandi while green Detective Mills scoffs at his efforts to get inside the mind of a killer.
"Wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention."
- John Doe
WARNING: This review contains spoilers and potentially offensive views on religion.
Se7en is hands down one of the most well written cinematic accomplishments of all time. To put it another way, Se7en is damn near better than sex. Oh yeah, you heard me... almost better than sex. It's one of those films that taps into hidden (and not so hidden) urges that we all have, but some find to be "sinful."
As anyone could guess, this film is deeply rooted in the Christian concept of the "Seven Deadly Sins." (If you claim to be of any Christian religion and cannot name them off the top of your head, I find you pathetic and a disgrace to your fairytale. Go find a different best selling novel that is easier to remember the bullshit rules.) Moving on, let's take a closer look into the Seven Deadly Sins (as viewed by the Christians) and then I'll add my thoughts, shall we?
Lust is usually thought of as involving obsessive or excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature. Unfulfilled lusts sometimes lead to sexual or sociological compulsions and/or transgressions including (but obviously not limited to) sexual addiction, adultery, bestiality, and rape.
Are you fucking kidding me? Lust is what keeps the damn human race on this planet! Then again, lust is also what's causing the world to over populate and slowly starve. (Hey third world countries... STOP HAVING 27 CHILDREN! YOU CAN'T EVEN FEED YOURSELVES! Dumbshits.) But, when this glittering example of 'humans attempting to control humans' rule was written, who was 100% in control of the world? Men! And what basic instinct is directly below self-preservation? Reproduction! And what do most men hate more than anything? Another man fucking his wife! So, I personally think that adultery was one of the main reasons this bullshit "deadly sin" came to light. To threaten women with eternal burning and misery if they opened their coin purse for an extra dollar.
Now, in the film, the killer straps a giant steel dildo/sword to a man and forces him to fuck the Hell (pardon the pun) out of a prostitute. This is precisely something I can see thousands of conservative christians fantasizing about in their beds before rubbing one out onto their sleeping spouses thigh. The mixture of their natural instinct to reproduce and making someone who they disagree with suffer, would be so overwhelming that they'd spill the demon juice... Exorcist style.
To many, what prostitutes do to survive may not be the most savory of professions, but at least they're not robbing banks and selling children to be made into Taco Bell meat to make a buck. If you ask me, prostitution should be legalized. Prostitutes would be required to get their tubes tied (or males a vasectomy), they would be checked for STD's once a week and they would have to pay taxes on all transactions. And think.. it would create more jobs in the security business to protect the sluts from over religious wackos like our villain in the film, and that would in turn help lower the unemployment percentage.
Bottom line, without lust there would be no human race. So the concept of lust being a sin? Bullshit. (Unless you're fucking animals, raping women or sexually abusing children. In those cases you should be strapped to a tree and force fed shit, piss and vomit before being decapitated with an olive fork and set on fire.)
In the killers words: "... and lets not forget the disease spreading whore. Only in a world this shitty can you say these people were innocent and keep a straight face."
Modern views identify Gluttony with an overindulgence of food and drink, though in the past any form of thoughtless excess could fall within the definition of this sin. Marked by unreasonable or unnecessary excess of consumption, Gluttony could also include certain forms of destructive behavior, especially for sport, or for its own sake. Substance abuse or binge drinking can be seen as examples of gluttony therefore, so it could be safely said that Gluttony is the overindulgence in any one thing.
Looking at the modern view of Gluttony, it's easy to see why people associate food with this "deadly sin" and why the film makers used food as the method of murder in the Gluttony scene of the film. For example, take a look at the health craze that's sweeping across America. After all these years America has finally realized that it's full of FAT ASS UGLY MOTHER FUCKERS. I was born and raised in America and I'm still amazed at the sheer size of some of these asses I get stuck behind at the grocery store or in the porn shop. Then, their hippo of a spouse walks up and I think to myself, "I bet they need a crane to lift that smelly gunt high enough to achieve penetration." STOP EATING YOU FAT JELLO MOLD WANNABES! OUR TAX MONEY IS GOING TO PAY FOR THE DAMAGES WHEN YOU SLIP ON A CHEETO BAG AND CRACK THE EARTHS CRUST!
As for this "Gluttony is the overindulgence in any one thing" bullshit, how could anyone be so pompous as to claim they are 100% certain that overindulging in anything is bad?! Here is a list of things I can't see ever being overindulged: education, acceptance, compassion, kindness, love for your family and friends, ect. Yeah, it sounds cheesy but it proves my point. Overindulgence can be a good thing in many cases and do more good than harm.
Yeah, some people make bad decisions with eating and there are things you can "overindulge" in, but the whole concept of Gluttony is a sack of rat crap.
In the killers words: "...an obese man, a disgusting man who can barely stand up? A man who if you saw him on the street you'd point him out to your friends so they could join you in mocking him? A man who if you saw him while you were eating you wouldn't be able to finish your meal?"
Greed is, like Lust and Gluttony, a sin of excess. However, Greed (as seen by the Church) applied to the acquisition of wealth in particular. Thomas Aquinas wrote that Greed was "a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things."
Would someone explain something to me? Why is it, that the Church can point the finger at everyone else and claim, "Thou are greedy with thy dollar bills", when they are the greediest mother fuckers to ever disgrace the planet?! I know why... because they want all your damn money to over pay their priests, organize alter boy gang bangs and cover up evidence that would threaten the integrity of their fairytale.
A friend of mine (who is a devout Lutheran) asked my opinion about a dilemma they were having at their church. Some of the congregation wanted to hire a youth group director for their kids, but the church funds wouldn't cover the costs. So they were planning a meeting to ask the Pastor to take a $10,000/year pay cut. Seems fair, right? As long as the man isn't starving. Why would he care about money anyway? He lives in the church and the money would be going towards a good cause, right? Out of curiosity, I asked how much this man (who preached to about 100 people in the middle of nowhere) makes every year. I figured $20,000 - $30,000 a year. I almost shit my pants... $110,000 a year! Are you fucking kidding me? A teacher starts out at less than $40,000 a year! And they are actually teaching facts not to mention they attended at least 4 years of college. What did the Pastor do? He was brainwashed as a child and decided being a Pastor was the easiest way to become wealthy. Now, if that doesn't sound fucked up to you, you need to have your head examined.
In the film, the murderer targets a well known defense attorney, Eli Gould, to teach the true meaning of Greed and I'm sure many of us thought this scene was just swell. Lawyers are required to lie in order to make their careers a success. Would you continually lie to a judge and jury if there was a $500,000 pay day at the end of the tunnel? Most would. The human will is weak.
So in the whole scheme of things, if you're saving loads of money for your retirement (which if you want to retire before your 97, you should be doing) you're sinning. I know! Give it all to the church and eat canned dog food through your golden years while working at Burger King! At least you'll have brownie points when you get to the pearly gates of Heaven! Greed being a sin that deserves death? Bullshit.
In the killers words: "This is a man who dedicated his life to making money by lying with every breath that he could muster to keeping murderers and rapists on the streets."
More than other sins, the definition of Sloth has changed considerably since its original inclusion among the seven deadly sins. In fact it was first called the sin of sadness. It had been in the early years of Christianity characterized by what modern writers would now describe as apathy, depression, and joylessness — the last being viewed as being a refusal to enjoy the goodness of God and the world He created. Sadness described a feeling of dissatisfaction or discontent, which caused unhappiness with one's current situation.
The modern view of the vice, as highlighted by its contrary virtue zeal/diligence, is that it represents the failure to utilize one's talents and gifts. For example, a student who does not work beyond what is required (and thus fails to achieve his or her full potential) could be labeled 'slothful'.
Our Sloth victim, known as Victor his but real name is Theodore Allen, had a long history of serious mental illness from being brought up in a very strict Baptist family. Victor dabbled in drugs, armed robbery, assault, and also spent some time in prison for the attempted rape of a minor. But his lawyers saw to it that he received a very short sentence. (Lawyer = Eli Gould, the Greed victim.) If you've seen the film, you're already aware this is one of the best scenes in the whole film.
If we take a good look at the definition for Sloth above, the first thing that stands out is the word depression. Taking into account the time period in which this was written, obviously medical science was less than impressive during these times. Now, with the enormous amount of research and discovery in the mental health field, we know that many humans can't simply walk through life 100% happy and content. Humans are now aware that genes can be passed through the parents creating a chemical imbalance, which in turn, makes you unhappy and/or just plain nutty.
In the United States, a 2005 independent report stated that 11% of women and 5% of men in the non-Insitutionalised population now take antidepressants. In 2005 there were approximately 300,000,000 U.S. citizens. Lets do the math shall we?
300,000,000 x .16% =
What does this all mean? That 48,000,000 Americans were "slothful" in 2005 just for being born with a few fucked up chemicals. God is good, huh?
Concept of Sloth? Bullshit.
In the killers words: "... a drug dealer? A drug dealing pederast actually!"
Wrath may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. These feelings can manifest as vehement denial of the truth, both to others and in the form of self-denial, impatience with the procedure of law, and the desire to seek revenge outside of the workings of the justice system (such as engaging in vigilantism) and generally wishing to do evil or harm to others. The transgressions borne of vengeance are among the most serious, including murder, assault, and in extreme cases, genocide.
Every last one of us are guilty of Wrath. There is no way to control your anger for your entire life... absolutely no way. For example, the series of events that lead up to the Wrath scene in the film.
Let me give you a few scenarios:
1. You come home from work and discover the neighborhood bully has killed your pet (lets say your dog, Gary) for no reason other than to see an innocent defenseless animal suffer. You've had Gary since he was a puppy and considered him a son.
2. Your wife hits the bars with her girl friends (girls night out) and you get a call from the police informing you someone slipped a rufie into your wifes drink, later raped her and beat her severely.
3. A man enters your parents house, shoots your father in the face with a shotgun, murders your mother then rapes her corpse.
Now, could you seriously experience any of these scenarios and say, "It's alright. I loved him/her/them with all my heart but I wouldn't want to sin and get emotional over this traumatic experience."? FUCK NO! You would be so enraged that the ground would rumble! And that's the way it should be. When someone does us wrong, anger always plays a factor in one way or another.
Wrath = Bullshit.
Like Greed, Envy is characterized by an insatiable desire; they differ, however, for two main reasons. First, Greed is largely associated with material goods, whereas Envy may apply more generally. Second, those who commit the sin of Envy desire something that someone else has which they perceive themselves as lacking. In Dante's Purgatory, the punishment for the envious is to have their eyes sewn shut with wire, because they have gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low.
I can't believe that people actually buy into this shit. Seriously. Envy is what keeps the damn economy going! When you see someone driving down the street in the one car in the world you'd kill for, YOU'RE SINNING! Because you wish you had that car as well. You envy him for his possession of the vehicle. So, later that night you decide to check your funds and you realize you have enough for a down payment on your dream car. Next week, your cruising down the street in your fancy new car... but now, you're sinning again, but in a different department of Bullshit-Mart. Pride.
In almost every list Pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments to others though they may be deserving of them, and excessive love of self.
So you're driving down Main Street in your recently purchased pimp-mobile with the windows rolled down and the wind blowing through your hair. You feel pride in the fact that you've worked hard for the money to purchase your new ride and also get a slight feeling of satisfaction that you have the best car in the neighborhood. The day couldn't get any better. Suddenly, a giant hand breaks out of the clouds slaps your across the face for being so foolish as to have pride in something as simple as a vehicle.
Alright parents, raise your hands. When your child/children popped their head out and introduced themselves to the world, you felt an enormous sense of pride didn't you? You've made a child that is the most beautiful thing that's ever happened to you. You're proud of your wife/girlfriend/fuck buddy for working so hard and also proud of the fact you didn't faint. Secretly, every parent sees their child as being superior to other children. Which is expected. I guess you parents are sinners. Shame on you.
Ladies, by putting make-up on your face, you're committing one of the most "serious" sins of all. Men, if you work out to sculpt your body, you're committing one of the most "serious" sins of all.
In the killers words: "... a woman so ugly on the inside that she couldn't bare to go on living if she couldn't be beautiful on the outside?"
The plot and villain of Se7en are stellar. Pretty much, I've written this review as if I was talking to the killer. Showing him the bullshit behind his delusions. There is an extremely simple way to sum up the film. Se7en is a must have. An absolute must have.
Next time you watch the film, think about the examples I've given you. You might notice some other extras that I haven't mentioned.
Comments (good or bad) on the review? Want to send me cult-style hatemail? You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- While filming the scene where Mills chases John Doe in the rain, Brad Pitt fell and his arm went through a car windscreen, requiring surgery. This accident was worked into the script of the film.
- The autopsy of the first killing, as originally scripted was incorrect, according to the research of makeup man Rob Bottin (who viewed a real human autopsy as part of his prep work). The scene was truncated from the original script and shows only the sewn-up corpse of Gluttony, not the actual autopsy.
- The victim tied to the bed for a year was not an animatronic model, but a very skinny actor made up to look even more corpse-like. Bottin used a set of exaggerated teeth to make the head look smaller and more shrunken from malnutrition.
- Originally, Morgan Freeman drew his pistol with his finger on the trigger. Police officers that were on the set as technical advisors quickly corrected him, as that is not correct police procedure.
- Somerset's office number, 714, is also Joe Friday's badge number as shown in the background of the closing credits in the old TV series, Dragnet.
- The prison jumpsuit John Doe wears at the end of the film has the words "Bardach County Jail" written on it. Elinor Bardach was the costume supervisor for this movie.
- One version of the script contained a few scenes following the final confrontation between the detectives and John Doe. In one Somerset is recovering in the hospital after being shot by Mills, and the captain delivers a letter to him from Mills which reads, "You were right. You were right about everything."
- The original script had a strange, dwarf-like woman as part of the forensics team, appearing in every one of the "cleanups" after a murder and hurling foul language and epithets at Somerset and Mills.
- An edited-out sequence near the beginning had Somerset looking over the country home he's planning on moving into. He uses his switchblade to cut loose a rose on a fragment of silk wallpaper and carries it with him throughout the movie. The rose falls out of his jacket as he is taking off his gun before eating with the Mills family. (This touch was edited out, too. Both sequences are in the supplementary section of the Criterion laserdisc.) The rose is briefly visible in the opening scene, sitting atop a handkerchief on Somerset's dresser.
- The screenplay had references to a partner Mills had when he still lived in the country, named Parsons. Parsons was shot and killed while on a bust with Mills, and consequently Mills is overprotective of Somerset in some scenes. All references to Parsons were deleted before shooting began.
- A rejected version of the credits had the same scratchy handwriting and Coil-remixed "Closer", but used static images instead of the jumpy, blurred footage used currently. (This credit sequence is in the Criterion laserdisc supplement section.)
- Mills and William Somerset discuss the book Of Human Bondage, which was written by W. Somerset Maugham.
- In one scene, Mills belittles Doe as a "Movie of the Week". When this film was shown on network television, the line was changed to "Book of the Month". (The line has since been restored in subsequent showings on Cable television.)
- All the building numbers in the opening scene start with 7. The climactic delivery was scheduled for 7:07pm.
- New Line executives originally balked at the film's ending, but Brad Pitt refused to make the film if the ending were changed.
- The "Platinum Series" DVD of Se7en by New Line is mastered from a new HDTV transfer which was made directly from the camera negative. This required that the whole film had to be re-graded digitally, applying color and contrast correction to every shot under the director's supervision. The resulting HDTV master is now the official master of the film. The digital corrections are quite extensive in some shots as the DVD supplements demonstrate in detail.
- Charles S. Dutton has a cameo as the cop who keeps the press out of the Greed crime scene.
- The writer of the film appears as the first corpse.
- When Somerset is in his apartment, he can be heard listening to a radio broadcast of John McLellan. McLellan was a Boston disc jockey (among other things) who did live Tuesday night broadcasts from the Boston club Storyville, on WHDH radio in the early '50s. In the clip in the movie, you can hear McLellan's voice announcing some of the members of the band at Storyville that night, including Charlie Parker with Herb Pomeroy on trumpet.
- All of John Doe's books were real books, written for the film. They took two months to complete and cost $15,000. According to Somerset, two months is also the time it would take the police to read all the books.
- Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker wrote the script over a two year period while working at a branch of Tower Records.
- R.E.M's Michael Stipe was once considered for the role of John Doe.
- As preparation for his traumatic scene in the interrogation room, Leland Orser would breathe in and out very rapidly so that his body would be overly saturated with oxygen; giving him the ability to hyperventilate.
- The film was the subject of a lawsuit brought by a photographer whose work was used in the background of John Doe's apartment. The case was decided in the filmmakers' favor. Sandoval v. New Line Cinema Corp., 973 F.Supp. 409, 412-414 (S.D.N.Y 1997).
- In the scene where Somerset and Mills enter Mills' apartment and are welcomed by Mills' wife, during the second frame, on the right side there can be seen a large poster for Pyshka (1934) directed by Mikhail Romm. Andrei Tarkovsky was under Romm's instruction in VGIK film school.
- Morgan Freeman's son, Alfonso Freeman, played the part of a fingerprint technician.
- Denzel Washington turned down the part that went to Brad Pitt.
- When looking for the part of Victor, David Fincher stated that he wanted to find someone who was incredibly skinny, around 80 lbs. Michael Reid MacKay auditioned, and at the time weighed 85 lbs. Fincher gave him the part and jokingly told him to lose some more weight. Much to his surprise, MacKay turned up to filming having lost another 5 lbs.
- The song "6ix" from the Lemonheads album Car, Button, Cloth gives away the ending of the film.
- This was voted the eighth scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
- The word "fuck" and its derivatives are said a discernible 74 times throughout the movie. Mostly by Brad Pitt
- According to earlier versions of the script, the unspoken name of the police captain is Captain Lucas.
- David Cronenberg was offered a chance to direct this but he turned it down.
- R. Lee Ermey originally auditioned for the part of John Doe. After the part was given to Kevin Spacey, Ermey was offered, and took, the part of the police captain.
- Shortly before shooting John Doe, a flash of Mills' wife's face appears on the screen, a technique that David Fincher uses again in Fight Club.
- The producers intended that Kevin Spacey should receive top billing at the start of the movie but he insisted that his name not appear in the opening credits, so as to surprise the audience with the identity of the killer. To compensate, he is listed first in the closing credits.
- Another advantage from Kevin Spacey's point of view (as he saw it) was that he was excluded from the film's marketing during its release, meaning he didn't have to make any public appearances or do any interviews.
- Even though he's probably one of the most horrifying and sadistic killers in cinematic history, John Doe isn't seen killing anyone on screen.
- To appease the producers, who wanted to soften the dramatic ending a bit, an alternate version of the ending was storyboarded, with Somerset saying that he "wants out", and killing John Doe, thereby preventing Doe from winning, and Mills from ending up in jail. In the mean time, the crew shot a test ending, which is basically the theatrical ending without some of the dramatic shots. This finale was so well received in screenings that it convinced the producers to go along with it, and not even film the alternate ending.
- The original ending for the movie consisted of a race against time to prevent John Doe murdering Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), the ending as it exists in the film was later read by Brad Pitt who demanded that the movie ends as it does or he would pull out of filming.