Review: Self/Less

4 10

PLOT: A terminally-ill billionaire (Ben Kingsley) signs up for a process called “shedding” where his consciousness will be transferred into a younger body that’s been biologically engineered to be free of any flaws. To his horror, he discovers that his new host body (Ryan Reynolds) may have been stolen from an unwilling donor.

REVIEW: Sometimes I wonder whether I’ve seen too many movies for my own good. If I wasn’t such a huge fan of the little-known John Frankenheimer movie SECONDS, I’d probably think SELF/LESS actually had a pretty decent premise. Certainly, there’s something to relate to here, as our bodies often betray us as we get older due to illness, genetics or simply time. Who doesn’t – from time to time – want to trade in the old model for something new? This is all territory that SECONDS explored brilliantly, with the film gradually turning into a surreal paranoid nightmare that proved even looking like Rock Hudson in his prime wasn’t necessarily a good thing (rumor has it – Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson was so disturbed by seeing it on acid that it kicked off his ‘Smile’-sessions nervous breakdown).


Of course, SELF/LESS is no SECONDS but it seems like director Tarsem Singh wanted it to be, with the first thirty or so minutes of this playing out like a virtual remake. However, after a promising opening SELF/LESS all but turns into yet another BOURNE IDENTITY-clone when its discovered his new body comes with a deadly skill-set that leads to our now-brawny hero uncovering a big conspiracy that you’ll be able to spot coming from a mile away.

Considering the prime summer date and wide release, SELF/LESS feels suspiciously low-rent, with New Orleans-location work that suggests this was a project instigated by a solid tax credit and designed to quickly cash-in/out at the box office. Maybe if it had been better this would have been possible but despite Tarsem’s reputation for style over substance, this doesn’t have any of his trademark imagery and feels almost DTV-level, like it should have skipped theaters altogether.

It’s yet another poor star vehicle for Ryan Reynolds, who’s struggled to break-out as a serious leading man – although the recent MISSISSIPPI GRIND and DEADPOOL just might put him back on track. Reynolds really doesn’t get much to do here, as the majority of his screen-time has him in chase mode and participating in some of the dullest action scenes of the year. Everything feels regurgitated, from the BOURNE-style hand-to-hand bits to an incredibly boring car chase, with only the ridiculously over-the-top finale featuring Reynolds wielding a flame-thrower standing out based only on how unintentionally funny it is.


While he clearly gives it his all, his performance makes very little sense. He’s supposed to be playing Ben Kingsley, but there’s no continuity between the performances suggesting we’re watching the same guy. While it’s explained that his body has some deadly skills thanks to muscle memory and his subconscious, it doesn’t explain how Reynolds – who’s still supposed to be Kingsley’s meek white-collar businessman – suddenly transforms into a Stallone-like action hero who racks up a body count in the dozens. Shouldn’t he have shown even the slightest compunction about killing? As for Kingsley, after the first fifteen minutes he’s out of the film completely, which is a shame as he brought gravitas and humanity to the part.

Kingsley’s not the only one who’s wasted. The usually great Matthew Goode is awful as the sniveling baddie – whose past is all too easy to figure out. Derek Luke fares even worse as his henchman with all the body swapping being ripped off from the Arnie-vehicle THE SIXTH DAY (now they’re not even stealing from good movies!). DOWNTOWN ABBEY’s Michelle Dockery has a part that feels like it’s been left somewhere on the cutting room floor. Natalie Martinez could have had an interesting role as Reynolds’ pseudo-love interest, but her character simply isn’t written well-enough to be engaging considering the position she’s supposed to be in (which I won’t reveal here).

In the end, SELF/LESS is a totally disposable actioner, maybe only distinguished by the fact that it ranks among the more violent PG-13 movies I’ve ever seen, with immolations aplenty (it seems like Tarsem has a thing for burnings). It’s another dull part for Reynolds, who deserves better.

Source: JoBlo.com



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