2015 / Director. Tarsem Singh.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
Sometimes a film can have all the ingredients to make something special but ends up being undercooked, such is the case with SELF/LESS.
The recipe, on paper, is a winner. Take a visionary director and give him a genre that seems purpose-built for his aesthetic, throw in some thespian royalty, a dash of one of the hottest actors on the planet and then season it with a decent budget and it should have been fine dining for the mind, but instead it ends up a $15 Parma special at the local.
Ben 'I Was Ghandi Forchristsake' Kingsley plays cancer-riddled New York real estate mogul Damian. Knocking on death's door, he stumbles across the process of 'Shedding', a $250million procedure performed by a shady company that transfers your consciousness into a new, purpose built body essentially allowing the dying party to achieve immortality. Everything goes to pot, however, when process doesn't go according to plan and it turns that the tycoon's mind is now inhabiting a murder victim an not the latest top-of-the-line model body.
Lots of running and gunning and sweaty, panty exchanges in beautiful locations to uncover the truth follows. Sounds daft? It is, but at least it's pretty.
Once again director Tarsem Singh's eye for composition is the best draw-card the film has. Much like his debut, the Jennifer Lopez serial killer thriller THE CELL, his visuals trump just about every other aspect of the production. Set design, costume and cinematography all work together in a perfect synergy. His slick, gun-metal grey symmetrical, geometric frames dazzle and distract from a narrative that falls apart when you think about it for longer than a heartbeat.
When the film does eventually give up on the 'serious' sci-fi approach after about the first 30mins (even if it is almost a remake of Frankenheimer's Seconds) Ryan Reynolds spends the next 75 minutess in what feels like a retread of Bourne and Taken without the originality of Damon nor the xenophobia of Neeson. A host of unrealised deadly skill-sets kick in and he takes on all the trained killers in Louisiana.
Reynolds has proven he can handle this acting malarkey when he's got the right material but doesn't get much latitude to explore any great character depths but he does handle the physical stuff well. Kingsley's presence is perhaps the most inexplicable part of SELF/LESS (other than all those cooking metaphors at the beginning of this review), presumably rent was due that month, and Singh's usual, striking visual flair get stifled in lieu of gun-play and fisticuffs.
SELF/LESS isn't an embarrassment for anyone involved, just a misfire that will be forgotten about in a year or so, and that's a shame, because the seed of something good is here and it's completely untapped.