It makes perfect sense for Ryan Reynolds to be playing an alternate version of Ben Kingsley, in that they’re both actors you think that you like until you actually read their IMDB pages.
These are not particularly discerning men, and here they are linked with director Tarsem Singh, a man whose impeccable visual style doesn’t always equate to comparable storytelling quality. Self/Less clearly isn’t that important to any of them, and is quite obviously the kind of film a director makes so that the studio will let them make the movie that they really want. So whenever Tarsem gets around to making that film, it had better be good.
Self/Less covers billionaire architect and long-time cancer sufferer Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) as he prepares for the end of his life by hiring underground scientist Professor Albright (Matthew Goode) to transfer his consciousness into a new body (Ryan Reynolds). When the switch has been made, Reynolds-Damian begins to suffer hallucinations as his brain fights against memories of his body’s former host. Upon further investigation, Damian learns that his new body was not grown in a lab as he had previously been told, but belonged to Mark, a military veteran with a sick daughter. Using Mark’s military training somehow, Damian takes Mark’s incredibly confused wife Madeline (Natalie Martinez) and daughter on the run trying to escape from Albright’s men, who for some reason didn’t have the foresight to kill them before, but seem to have no problem with killing them now.
Self/Less’ biggest problem is that nobody seems to be interested in what they’re doing, least of all Reynolds. There is almost no attempt on his part to make Kingsley-Damian and Reynolds-Damian seem like remotely the same character, no attempt to impersonate mannerisms or inflections. This is basic acting protocol, Zac Efron managed to do it, for god’s sake! As soon as Reynolds opens his mouth, any personality Damian has disappears, and he’s immediately played as another charmingly smarmy Ryan Reynolds protagonist with some discount-Bourne fights mixed in.
This is appropriate enough, as Reynolds’ appearance in the film also signifies the moment where the movie drops any pretense of interacting with its own premise. Rather than discuss the issues inherent in believing in transhumanism or making Damian realize that maybe granting immortality solely to cold-hearted billionaires like himself would be a bad idea, the movie decides that lackluster car chases and having a shootout or two would be the better way to go. Tarsem, normally known for his clever visual and conflicting aesthetic styles, also abandons that and decides to go with a standardized cold-blue color palette and fight sequences with a disturbing lack of motion. I’m not saying there aren’t great shots in Self/Less, but that’s what they are: A single great frame here and there, not in any way contributing to the action movie that the film wants to be.
Self/Less is a dull, under-written slog of a film with very little to care about.
There’s no reason to root for Damian/Mark, and even less reason to care about his wife, who is given nothing to do but cry “What’s going ooooonnn?” as people attempt to shoot her. It’s the kind of film that slips out of one’s memory quickly after viewing, a film that would probably be left behind in the magic MRI machine if one actually did transfer to another body. There’s nothing egregiously awful about it, but it suffers from an obvious lack of enthusiasm on the part of everyone involved. If the people making it can’t be bothered to care about what they’re doing, there’s no reason for the audience to get excited either.Liked This? Share It!