A powerful and wealthy business man with a terminal illness finds a way to prolong his life, by taking another in Self/Less.
Sir Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) shares the lead as Damian, a New York powerhouse in the business world, diagnosed with a terminal illness and facing only six months left to live.
Privy to an expensive and exclusive, experimental procedure called Shedding, Damian takes the bold step of transferring his consciousness into a young, healthy, biologically engineered shell of a body. The catch is that he must leave his past behind. Damian ceases to exist and a new life begins.
Regardless of unresolved issues with his estranged daughter, Damian proceeds with the procedure, waking in his new body (Ryan Reynolds taking the lead) and a new life in New Orleans.
Young, fit, healthy and wealthy – life starts well until Damian begins to suffer flashbacks of a previous life, but not his life. The life of the body he now inhabits.
What promised to be a sci-fi thriller quickly established itself as a mediocre action film, lacking in any meaningful direction and unable to settle into a definitive genre. When presented with an interesting twist on the Total Recall theme Director, Tarsem Singh, seems have tried his level best to appeal to the wider audience than present a cohesive storyline.
From the opening scene Damian is presented as a ruthless entrepreneur, a man that has devoted his life to work – at the expense of his relationship with his daughter. Facing his own mortality Damian’s efforts to reach out to her are rebuffed. The tone is set, serious, and edging towards sinister. Until the second act…
Gifted a new, young and healthy body, things go a bit ‘Fast and Furious’. Impossibly skinny girl after impossibly skinny girl, sharp suits, fast cars, basketball, clubbing, loud music, jogging montage… blah! As dreamy as it must be waking up as Ryan Reynolds (he’s my man crush btw), an elderly man, even in a young body, seems unlikely to suddenly develop a love of R&B and sweaty nightclubs.
Act three and shit gets real again. Young Damian begins to suffer flashbacks, but the memories are not his own. Gradually he begins to realise that the company are not what they seem. The body wasn’t artificially grown, it belonged to someone and Damian’s desire to uncover this former life places him and his donor body’s family in grave danger.
I hadn’t expected the filmmakers to abandon the science fiction thread so readily. Everything I liked in the drama of the trailer is diluted by the journey the character takes through these different phases of the film.
Damian’s discovery of his new younger self formed a larger than necessary chunk of the film and altered the tone significantly. When the realisation hits that he’s taken another man’s body, Damian’s motives and actions are questionable given his previously established character traits. He leaps from being a ruthless billionaire to a kind hearted killing machine. Just… whaaaaat the eff? Kind. Hearted. Killing machine.
Self/Less is a film that managed to stifle the potential for a gritty thriller and wound up as an ill-conceived, poorly presented and unbalanced action flick. You won’t be bored, but you won’t be impressed either. Very disposable.