SELF/LESS (3 out of 10) Directed by Tarsem Singh; Written by David and Alex Pastor; Starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Natalie Martinez and Victor Garber; Rated PG-13 for “sequences of violence, some sexuality, and language”; Running time 117 min; In wide release July 10, 2015.
“Self/Less” is very much a hybrid of films that have come before, and for all intents and purposes, the others did it better. I’m always excited to see a new reimagining or visualization of old classics except when the sum of those parts is less interesting or exciting than what has come before. So while there are some things this movie does well there just isn’t much there.
Damien Hale (Ben Kingsley) is a billionaire and influential businessman whose vision has helped shaped the landscape of New York. He’s also dying of cancer and has very little time left to live. Desperate to extend his life, he turns to a shady medical researcher, Professor Albright (Matthew Goode) who promises him the gift of renewed youth via a process known as neurological shedding – transferring his consciousness into a younger body that has been grown for him in a lab. Hale takes him up on his offer and is now living a life of leisure and opulence in his new life and body as Edward (Ryan Reynolds). The fun and frolic is short lived as Edward begins to get flashbacks of memories – and military training – that don’t belong to him and starts to wonder if the body he was given was truly created for him or stolen from someone with a previous life and past. As Edward reconnects with his wife (Natalie Martinez) and child from his past, he delves deeper into the details that surround his rebirth and must utilize every resource at his means to find the truth and protect the innocent people who have unwittingly been dragged into the conspiracy with him.
If all of that sounds incredibly familiar, it should because “Self/Less” takes the basic plot from both “Total Recall” and “The Bourne Identity” and tries to squish it together into some kind of unholy hybrid. Had it been at least halfway successful, then it could have been a somewhat amusing if forgettable movie, but nothing that it does is worth wasting your time on.
Its biggest flaw is that it’s so predictable that anyone should be able to see right through the eventual twist and also guess at what is going to happen next. This is so bad that I was able to quote lines of the script moments before the actors said them on screen. I don’t mind a movie that is easy to follow, but there is absolutely no chance of surprise here, and it’s annoying just how clever it thinks it is when it tries to pull one over on us.
I don’t understand the choice to cast Ryan Reynolds as the lead except for a desperate attempt to revitalize his career as an action star. He had to spend a lot of time trying to escape from his Van Wilder past, and years later he has been quite successful at no longer being thought of as a college partier and slacker. But he has neither the acting chops nor physicality about him to be truly competent as a character that has to kick ass and shoot bad guys in the face. I’m sure he’ll be awesome in “Deadpool”, but that’s because it’s a character that is almost perfectly created for him. We didn’t need this film to try to prove that.
I also object to the inclusion of a young child whose sole purpose is to drive tension. Kids can add a lot to a story and in some cases vastly improve a movie, but that’s not the case here. It’s a lazy way for the screenwriters to create a false sense of danger.
Lastly, it inexplicably evolves into a chick flick for the last few minutes, and the abrupt change in tone makes no sense and seems like a desperate attempt to reach for an audience that wasn’t its target demographic.
There really is no reason to spend any time or energy on this. You would be better off revisiting older, better movies or even going to see one of the best of the year, “Mad Max: Fury Road” if you missed it. “Self/Less” is vapid, boring and thinks it’s too cool for school when it’s actually still sitting in class eating paste.