Starring: Ben Kingsley, Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez
Director: Tarsem Singh
Running Time: 117 mins
Self/Less is an American film about a billionaire diagnosed with a terminal illness who transfers his consciousness into the body of a younger man, but unleashes a complex pursuit when he meets a woman from his body’s former life.
The frustrating thing about Self/Less is that I’ve seen this story told before, and told in far better ways. I’m talking about the psychotic 1966 drama Seconds, and I’ll admit that that film doesn’t quite have the blockbuster appeal of Self/Less.
However, this film takes what I know can be a psychologically enthralling story and turns it into a painfully generic blockbuster, which by the third act has almost nothing to do with the original premise that it sets out.
Before we get into that, let’s briefly talk about the positives of Self/Less, which largely come in the form of its action and its performances. As generic as the film is, it’s good to see that it doesn’t go overboard with its action, and keeps the fight sequences and shootouts a little more level-headed, in keeping with its slightly more serious atmosphere.
Though it doesn’t quite pull it off perfectly, the film does deserve credit for taking its story a little more seriously, rather than getting totally caught up in a ludicrous world of sci-fi that’s more unintelligible than genuinely entertaining.
On the flipside, however, Ryan Reynolds’ lead performance provides the most entertainment here, with a charismatic starring role that brings good energy to the movie’s action, even if his character isn’t quite as interesting as he should be.
And that’s where my main issue with the film lies, that it squanders the opportunity to tell a genuinely captivating and emotional story about its main character – an ageing billionaire (Ben Kingsley) who has his consciousness placed into the body of a younger man (Ryan Reynolds).
While films like Seconds go deep into the psychologically distressing elements of this kind of procedure and the long-term repercussions that it can bring about, Self/Less finds itself a little rushed on that front, only really bringing in complex and thought-provoking drama right at the very end.
Otherwise, the main character feels a bit of soreness after he wakes up in his new body, and a bit of awkwardness when he meets someone from the body’s previous life. Other than that, the film just feels like a Ryan Reynolds action movie, with the part about Ben Kingsley tacked on to the front just to give it a bit of a gimmick.
Admittedly, this film can’t be as in-depth and thought-provoking as the likes of Seconds simply because that is far too distressing for a mainstream blockbuster audience. However, Self/Less does so little with what is undeniably a fascinating premise, missing the mark woefully as it ultimately finds itself telling a generic action story with little to set it apart from the crowd. So, that’s why I’m giving this film a 6.6 overall.