IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 117 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Damian Hayes is a billionaire business tycoon who has devoted his life to financial domination at the expense of his own family. However, he’s encountered something that he cannot defeat: cancer. His only hope is a radical medical procedure called “shedding”, in which his consciousness is transferred to a healthy body. He fakes his own death and is taken to the secret laboratory of scientist Albright, who has a newly built body waiting for him. Awaking as a much younger and healthier man, Damien quickly takes the opportunity to enjoy life, but soon develops crippling headaches that seep into hallucinations, leaving him confused when confronted with visions of time in the military and life with a wife and daughter. Could his body be a used one, and why does the company suddenly seem to be after him?….
Sort of a more action-oriented version of Seconds with a few touches of Total Recall and Limitless, Self/less is pretty good for around three quarters of its length until it goes off the rails. It does tend to rush through things right from the beginning as if it thinks its audience may become easily bored [in fact too many scenes seem to end before they’re finished] though there’s an especially strange performance from Ben Kingsley to enjoy with an accent that sometimes sounds English, sometimes American, and sometimes Middle Eastern. Once Kingsley wakes up in the shape of Ryan Reynolds, there’s not enough time spent showing how he would adapt to his new life because David and Alex Pastor’s screenplay is impatient to cut to the chase, but director Tarsem Singh, in a film which is far less visually stylised than is normal for him, soon shows a real adeptness for action, staging mayhem with cars, guns and some really good, brutal fights [which I’m surprised made a ‘12A’ rating] with considerable skill. It’s highly disappointing that the story, which is full of possibilities, resolves itself into an extended chase, but Self/less is thoroughly watchable and sometimes quite exciting until its final half hour or so, where several ridiculous plot mechanisms are thrown at the viewer so the film can arrive at a rather dumb, insulting and out of place happy ending.
An emphasis on father/daughter relationships [the second movie this week] does lead to some rather touching scenes as Damien has to ingratiate himself with a family he never knew, helped immensely by the very astute performance of little Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen – you wouldn’t believe this is her first film role. The film asks how important a person’s life is and at what cost a specific person’s life should be preserved, while the screenplay takes care to make Damien and Albright more than just run-of-the-mill heroes and villains. Reynolds is rather more low key than I would liked him, but he seems to grow into the role [which is kind of appropriate, I suppose] and does compel. The trouble is, for every two good ideas, the writers give us one stupid one with the stupid ones eventually taking over, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth, because it’s the last bits of a film you exit the cinema remembering strongly, not the first bits. In the end Self/less fails to have the courage of its convictions – nothing new at the moment where so many movie stories seem to ‘chicken out’ of becoming what they could be – but does provide plenty of thrills and a fair bit of emotion along the way. For the first three quarters anyway, it’s quite satisfying.