More Than Just Film
In a nutshell: According to the publicity blurb, 7Lives is The Wizard of Oz meets It’s a Wonderful Life. What could make somebody say something like that? A combination of a cruel sense of humour, a cocaine-induced breakdown and a hostage situation is my guess.
Danny Dyer plays Tom, a Cockney estate agent trapped between an affair with one of his clients and the ‘claustrophobic pit’ of his family home. On his way home to confess all to his wife, he’s beaten senseless by three young toughs. Left in a coma by the attack, Tom briefly inhabits a series of characters – including one of his attackers, a homeless man, a boxer, and a rock star – in order to confront his insecurities and play out his fantasy of being someone else.
How was it for Danny? Dialogue gets mangled and attempts at humour die horribly, so it’s a fairly standard Dyer performance. When Tom earns his redemption at the end of the film, George Bailey-style, all we’ve really learnt is that Dyer can have a fair old stab at being a victim but is way out of his depth when playing winners. Go figure.
As the central character, Tom gets to deliver the film’s voice-over which, rather than attempting to explain anything, deals in rambling faux-profundity à la Nigel Tufnel’s spoken intro to Stone Hedge. ‘We all like to dream, don’t we?’ We’d all like to know what it’s like, over there, where the other guy lives’.
Due to a plot device, Tom gets his wish to be someone else but, regrettably, this isn’t Dyer’s Dr Strangelove and he doesn’t get to play any of the characters Tom inhabits. The fact I find this bitterly disappointing suggests that I have some kind of worrying growth pushing down upon my brain or Danny’s magic is starting to rub off on me.
Either way, we can’t pin the film’s abject failure on Dyer’s lack of acting chops alone. Even the excellent Martin Crompston (Red Road, Doomsday & The Damned United) can do nothing with his role as a burnt-out rock star trying to reconnect with his ageing father. Despite oozing charisma and class whenever he’s on screen, his sub-plot is as bafflingly uneven and depressingly pointless as any other.
Is it worth watching? All you need to know about this film is that it’s bad. Not bad as in enjoyably bad but bad as in unrefrigerated meat in a heatwave bad, bad as in greeting cards featuring pictures of sexually-abused kittens bad, bad as in insects laying eggs inside open head wounds bad, bad as in eleven bads in one sentence bad.
The 93 minutes of 7Lives are as drawn out and ugly as any real life act of thuggery. Immediately prior to Tom’s attack at the start of the film, the gang members’ dialogue – which captures exactly how disenfranchised youth speak today (in films made by middle-aged, middle-class white men) – is a warning for viewers as much as for Tom.
‘What the fuck are you doing here?’ ‘You’re a bit off track, aren’t you?’ ‘You can’t cross the line, willy-nilly.’
And yet, my motivations prove as incomprehensible as those of the characters in the film and I keep watching all the way to the flaccid and pointless conclusion. A couple of days later it hits me why. This is exactly the experience I was after when I decided to write Dyer Diary, to cross the line and walk on the wild-side of the moving image, to pick my way through the horrors of the straight-to-DVD market, to see these things with my own eyes and to entrust my safety to my dead-eyed spiritual guide, Mr Danny Dyer.
It also struck me that the rules I set down in Day One, the safeguards to protect me from the worst of it, are just barriers blocking my path. If this experience is to mean anything, and if I hope to hear what Danny has to teach me about life, the world and myself, then each of these rules must, and will, be broken.
Danny Dyer, holding a book and acting.
What’s it really about?
Everything from the attack onwards was Tom’s death fantasy as he attempts to make peace with himself before passing across to the other side (West London?). The film concludes with Tom deciding to return home to his family and finding a surprise birthday party in which all the characters from the various sub-plots are present. As Tom blows out the candles on his birthday cake all the lights go out and the final thing we hear before the end credits is the beeeeeeep of his life support machine suddenly having nothing to do. Either that or it was the sound of a significant part of me dying inside. Forever.