Tarsem Singh’s Self/Less explores the idea of being able to switch bodies at the point of death and live your life all over again while questioning what the human cost of that might be.
This film has a solid high concept science fiction idea that is rife for exploring and starts out pretty well. It opens with a fairly slow burn as we’re introduced to Damian Hayes (Ben Kingsley), an emotionally detached rich guy with more money than friends and a strained relationship with his daughter that fills his life with regrets despite his success. Is there any other kind of rich guy in fiction? I’m still holding onto the belief that money does buy you happiness.
Damian is dying of cancer and his time is almost up so in an act of desperation he pays a company who promise to give him new life without questioning their practices to any great degree. When he dies he is transferred into the body of Ryan Reynolds and the film plays from there.
As you might expect Ben Kingsley disappears from the film after this happens which I found to be a shame as I found his character to be interesting. Kingsley brought a certain level of humanity to him that pushed him a little beyond the noticeably bland writing.
Ryan Reynolds does pretty well but doesn’t have a lot to work with. The most entertaining scenes are when he firsts gets his new body and goes out in New Orleans to enjoy being Ryan Reynolds. I doubt anyone can really fault Damian for doing that. The biggest issue is that there is no real connection in the performance of Reynolds to Kingsley’s performance. They feel like two completely different people which says more about the writing than the acting. Both actors know what they’re doing but a strong sense of character really isn’t in the script.
Once the film starts to explore the nefarious nature of the body switching process everything gets a bit silly. It definitely feels like the writers had a great idea to start off with but were unable to carry it through to a solid conclusion. Everything about the exploration of the idea that working class people are being destroyed so that rich people can selfishly live on comes up short. I think it would have been far more interesting if the rich guys knew exactly what they were doing rather than it being a surprise to Damian. If the film explored that angle then it could have been something of a redemptive story.
Unfortunately the film becomes a really boring action movie filled to burst with really dull action sequences that drag on forever. I found myself spoiling for the conversations about what all of this means for humanity and how it affected the people involved. It is really poorly paced to boot so it ends up becoming a chore to sit through by the end. Somewhere in the second act I really stopped caring about what was going on despite the constant telegraphed twists and really wanted the whole thing to finish.
Additionally, Matthew Goode’s Allbright is really boring as an antagonistic force being played as almost robotic. It’s a waste of a good actor. He could have been the lens to explore the idea of consenting to the procedure absolving them of any guilt but he was kept bland and mysterious on purpose.
I did like the idea of Damian feeling guilt ridden and responsible for his host’s wife and daughter but it’s handled in such a patchy way that it fails to resonate. There are a few scenes where Madeline (Natalie Martinez) loses it but she seems to accept what has happened and the upheaval in her life a little too well and the relationship she forges with the new owner of her husband’s body never feels believable.
I wouldn’t recommend this one as it fails on far too many levels. It starts off well but very quickly loses its way and quickly devolves into lunacy by the end. Give it a miss unless you’re a really big fan of Ryan Reynolds.
A bland and disappointing action movie that wastes the good ideas that it clearly has in favour of a Ryan Reynold’s action vehicle.
One thing that really lands in this film is the acting. Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds both do well in their own way but the performances feel very different which becomes a problem when they are supposed to be playing the same person. It’s more down to the writing than the acting in this instance as there’s nothing to fault from either of them.
It’s a shame that the film goes down the boring action route as there are really good ideas in here. I like the idea of the rich selfishly living on at the expense of the working class who have to play host to their diseased minds. It would have been better had Damian started out as being more unlikeable and followed a more redemptive story rather than letting Reynolds sleepwalk through a really boring character.
The film runs too long and fails to be engaging somewhere into the second act. There are too many attempts at twists and the film just meanders on uninterestingly with a really boring villain sitting behind it all pulling the strings.
I would suggest you don’t waste your time with this one as it wastes what should have been a really compelling sci fi premise. If you’re a huge fan of Ryan Reynolds then there is something to enjoy here but beyond that it should be skipped.