Self / Less
Slickly directed, but with enough far fetched turns to make the magician Uri Geller bury his head in a bucket of spoons, "Self/Less" by director Tarsem Singh (The Cell) could have benefitted from a less conventional body.
Ben Kingsley plays Damien Hale, a hard billionaire who just learns he has terminal cancer. All of his life he has been a realist. Now (of course) he regrets his ways wanting to make amends to his daughter Claire (Michelle Dockery) who works for a non profit.
If only Hale could make things right.
He collapses at his office, sputtering blood and is taken to a space age facility that can transplant his consciousness into the body of another waiting in a kind of freezer.
With spooky foreshadowing and a lot of loud grinding, there is something rotten in New Orleans.
There is nothing of Hale here, which makes the story silly from the get go.
Hale doesn't know if he's coming or going. He's suspicious of a head agent played by William Matthew Goode.
One morning after having fun in the French Quarter with a babe, he has disturbing lucid hallucinations that Hale is now actually a soldier who died in Afghanistan.
And just by the power of one vision alone, he gets the vibe to visit a water tower. On a whim, he enters a house and discovers himself in family photographs with a daughter who suffers from a respiratory ailment.
Agents are waiting for him.
The fight scenes are laughable with enough crashing, bashing and breaking to fill a drive In movie. Strange that Hale now has excellent combat skills even though he only just learned to walk. An agent gets doused with a flamethrower and then falls into a tub of water with what might be an Ahh of relief in poor taste.
Now the soldier's wife Madeline (Natalie Martinez ) is on the run with a cliche of a cute daughter Abby (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) in tow.
Hale oscillates between his generic "self" and this newly discovered soldier Mark, the man of action who knows exactly what to do.
And all because of some little red pills a la Alice in Wonderland.
There is a moment of revelation when Abby goes behind a door to see an eerie boy. But we are given such convoluted explanations as to who this boy really is with dialogue about other bodies and transmutation, that it gets mushy.
After so much shell games, it all seems a screenplay written by MadLibs.
I get where the story intended to go: a man who doesn't know who he is, is lost in New Orleans. A man on the run wants a second chance. He doesn't know who to trust. Okay.
With an actor of Ben Kingsley's bearing and a bit more genuine tension, this film could have been a nail biter.
But as played by Ryan Reynolds who gives everything a bland Dudley Do-Right delivery it is plastic instead of punchy.
Though visually crisp in keeping with Tarsem Singh's flair, the film's "trick" with its accompanying moral, is such a leap in logic that "Self/Less" becomes mere fluff, rather than a compelling noir brainteaser that it should have been.
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