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Seven (DVD)

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In 1995, Seven had to distinguish itself as a serial-killer movie in a market flooded with Silence Of The Lambs clones. Five years later, its DVD edition arrives on the heels of nearly as many Seven knockoffs. So it says a lot about the quality of the film that, then and now, it brings nothing to mind so readily as itself. While director David Fincher's urban hellscapes and nihilistic atmospherics have been easy to duplicate, other aspects of the film have proven more elusive. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman could claim the credit for their pitch-perfect acting, if Kiss The Girls, one of Seven's bigger-budgeted spawn, hadn't demonstrated that even Freeman can't save an uninteresting film. Similarly, Seven's premise is clever, but countless fatally flawed movies have failed to live up to clever premises. Andrew Kevin Walker's script uses the crime genre's familiar devices to engage far larger issues of good and evil, but just about every crime film of note meets the same requirement. Perhaps, despite the quality of just about any given individual factor of Seven, its artistic success is best credited to the fortuitous combination of forces behind it. Seven's features-packed DVD gives that impression by democratically devoting much of its space to the various team players behind the film; the supplements take a detailed look, rare for all but the most obvious special-effects-driven blockbusters, at the behind-the-scenes work. Fincher himself, speaking alongside Freeman and Pitt on one of four commentary tracks, certainly defers much of the credit elsewhere. (Someone had to create all those psychotically copious notebooks, after all.) But while Fincher's modesty never sounds disingenuous, it's also not entirely accurate. Detractors, particularly critics of the divisive Fight Club, have been eager to label him as a filmmaker whose grasp of style exceeds his other abilities. But he directs Seven with an undeniable thoughtfulness, knowing to emphasize the relationship between his two leads and let it develop amid the ominously lit rooms and rain-drenched streets, through long takes and quiet moments. Fincher also, less obviously, deserves credit for knowing which film to make. A highly informative second commentary track, orchestrated by British film professor Richard Dyer and featuring Fincher, Walker, New Line exec Michael De Luca, and editor Richard Francis-Bruce, reveals that the director chose Seven after accidentally receiving a discarded first draft. Seven could simply have been another Lambs knockoff, but instead, it's one of the most distinctive films of the '90s, due to its shared commitment to a single vision whose clarity—as with most films of this caliber—ultimately serves as its most distinguishing feature.