Released:  1995

Cast:  Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, John C. McGinley, Gwyneth Paltrow

Oscar Nominations:  Best Film Editing (Richard Francis-Bruce)

SUMMARY:  William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is a detective in a big city, who is about to retire.  Before he does, he is assigned to one last investigation.  His partner is David Mills (Brad Pitt), who has recently transferred to the department.  The case the two men are assigned to is that of a grossly overweight man who was forced to eat until he died; the next day, they discover the body of a lawyer who died from blood loss.  From evidence extracted from the scenes, the detectives start to believe that they are chasing a serial killer who is killing people based on the seven deadly sins.  The first man represented gluttony, while the second represented greed (he literally had a pound of flesh taken from him, resulting in the fatal blood loss).  They also find fingerprints at the scene, and several days later, the fingerprints lead them to another crime scene.  This man, who was a criminal before being captured by the serial killer, has been kept alive and immobile for a year:  he represents sloth.  From this, the detectives are able to discern that the crimes have been planned for some time.  Back at home, Somerset meets Mills’ wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), who confides that she is pregnant and has not told her husband.  Somerset tells her that he understands her dislike of the city, and reluctance to raise a baby there:  he also advises her that if she decides to have an abortion, to not tell her husband.

In an attempt to track down their serial killer, Somerset and Mills go to the library and look at the records.  They find one man, John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who has recently checked out books about the seven deadly sins.  The detectives go to Doe’s house, and Doe starts shooting at them before running away.  Mills is able to catch up, but Doe gets him at gunpoint; however, he abruptly leaves without harming Mills.  An investigation of Doe’s apartment yields no clue about the identity of the next victim.  Not long after, they find the lust victim, who is already dead.  The pride victim is also quickly discovered.  To the surprise of the police, Doe himself shows up at the station and turns himself in.  He offers a deal to Somerset and Mills:  he will tell them the location of the last two victims’ bodies if he can go with the two detectives – no one else can come; otherwise, he will plead insanity.  Somerset is leery of agreeing to this, but Mills insists that they can handle Doe.  The three men take off for the desert.  Along the way, Doe explains the reasoning behind his crimes, as well as making some odd remarks to Mills.  Once the men have reached their destination, a delivery van arrives, bearing a package he was told to specially deliver.  Mills holds Doe at gunpoint while Somerset opens the package; Doe continues to make strange comments to Mills.  After he opens the box, Somerset suddenly warns Mills to stop listening, but it is too late:  Doe tells Mills that the box contains Tracy’s head.  Doe continues, explaining that he (Doe) represents envy; he believes that in his anger over the situation, Mills will represent wrath.  To get Mills worked up even further, Doe tells him of Tracy’s pregnancy.  Mills gives in and does shoot Doe; when reinforcements arrive, he is taken away, while Somerset goes into retirement.

MY TAKE:  It’s a hell of a twist, but it sucks.  Seriously, who could kill Gwyneth Paltrow?  If you didn’t already think the dude was sick, now you know for sure.  As usual, Kevin Spacey is terrific – he has this strange ability to appear either completely normal or completely insane, mostly by facial expression.  It’s not too often that one person can play both extremes so convincingly – usually, they’re either too much of a “good guy” actor to really pull off a nut, or they’re too famous for playing a psycho for people to ever trust them again (like Anthony Hopkins).  Kevin Spacey seems to be an exception to this rule.  Naturally, Morgan Freeman is great; he’s the voice of reason and experience to Pitt’s headstrong, impulsive new guy.  Obviously, I was really hoping that it wasn’t really Tracy’s head in the box (and thankfully, we weren’t shown the contents), being that it would be doubly tragic because of the pregnancy thing.  Even so, I didn’t want Mills to shoot Doe.  First, it’s giving Doe exactly what he wants.  Second, killing someone is a crime, whether you think he deserves it or not (I’m a very black-and-white person when it comes to legality).  I wanted Mills to be a bigger person than that.

RATING:  Good movie, good twist, bad ending.


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