July 16, 2015
Self/Less (* 1/2) PG-13
I’m really starting to wonder about actor Ryan Reynolds. Judging from the list of duds that litter his resumé from the last five years, it would appear that maybe he’s not even bothering to read his scripts and has officially entered what I refer to as ‘check cashing mode.’ If so, Reynolds wouldn’t be the first actor who is guilty of the cinematic transgression of cashing paychecks with little to no regard for the project of the moment. There are many others whose career has faltered because of this very same thing, Eddie Murphy being a notable example. Whatever the case may be, Reynolds’ focus on paycheck instead of story would be the only possible explanation for his involvement in such a dubious project as Self/Less, a film with a great premise—albeit one partially borrowed from the great John Frankenheimer film from 1966, Seconds—that falls completely apart after the establishment of said premise.
The premise I’m referring to is the age-old desire to continue living when our bodies begin to fail us.
Ben Kingsley transforming into a new man
In the case of this film, the main character, a wealthy entrepreneur played by Ben Kingsley in the film’s early scenes, doesn’t want to change bodies because he’s bored and looking for a thrill of some sort.
No, he’s looking to be transplanted into another body because he’s a successful businessman dying of cancer who wishes to keep making money by the fistful and will be unable to do so should he expire. Good old capitalism in its finest form, one might be inclined to say, but I digress. When Mr. Businessman’s health takes a turn for the worse, he opts to take the chance he’s been given by a company who charges a mere $250 million to do that sort of thing and promises that its bodies are grown in a lab so as not offend anyone’s conscience.
Essentially, Ben Kingsley becomes Ryan Reynolds, once the transplant procedure takes place and the former is given his new body.
Ryan Reynolds is the new man
This all takes place off screen so the audience really doesn’t know how it’s achieved and it’s never really explained, something that should alert audience members right from the start. The old man in the young body opts to basically hang out in New Orleans and bed as many women as humanly possible, giving new meaning to the term ‘a new lease on life.’ The look on Reynolds’ face as he spies a naked young woman for what is presumed to be the first time in decades is certainly priceless.
After the essential premise is established the film takes a right turn into stupidsville and never recovers, as Reynolds comes to suspect that he wasn’t grown in a lab and had a previous life. The second half of the film has him attempting to locate that former life at which point all sorts of chases and the like ensue.
It’s always sad to see a film with such promise disintegrate but this, unfortunately, is that type of film. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
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