Who would have guessed that a grisly and upsetting serial-killer police procedural (1995) costarring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as detectives, written by a Tower Records cashier (Andrew Kevin Walker), and directed by David Fincher (Alien) would bear a startling resemblance to a serious work of art? One can already tell that this film is on to something special during the opening credits, which formally echo several classic American experimental films and thematically point to the eerie kinship between the serial killer and the police—not to mention the kinship between murder and art making that the movie is equally concerned with. The detectives are trying to solve a series of hideous murders based on the seven deadly sins, and the sheer foulness and decay of the nameless city that surrounds them, which makes those of Taxi Driver and Blade Runner seem almost like children’s theme parks, conjures up a metaphysical mood that isn’t broken even when the film moves to the countryside for its climax. Admittedly, designer unpleasantness is a hallmark of our era, and this movie may be more concerned with wallowing in it than with illuminating what it means politically. Yet the filmmakers stick to their vision with such dedication and persistence that something indelible comes across—something ethically and artistically superior to The Silence of the Lambs that refuses to exploit suffering for fun or entertainment and leaves you wondering about the world we’re living in. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Roundtree, John C. McGinley, R. Lee Ermey, and Kevin Spacey.