Self/less: Sense/less, Mind/less Sci-Fi Action
Ben KingsleyMatthew Goode...
Who would have thought that Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds would ever end up in a film together, let alone playing the same character? On one hand, you have an Oscar-winning heavyweight and one of the most reputable ‘real’ actors working in Hollywood today; on the other, you have a critically unloved pretty-boy whose first big break came on a sit-com. Well, they are and they do in Tarsem Singh’s disappointing sci-fi thriller, Self/less.
Written by David & Alex Pastor, the film is centred on billionaire businessman and New York magnate, Damian Hale (Kingsley), who has recently become afflicted with an aggressive form of cancer.
Eager to beat death, Damien is soon drawn to genetics expert, Professor Albright (Goode), who claims that his controversial ‘Shedding’ procedure can transfer Damian’s consciousness into a young, healthy artificially-created body (Reynolds). Awakening as a stranger, he begins a new life in New Orleans as Edward Kittner and lives as any young, good-looking fellow would – lots of partying and lots of women, of course. However, he begins to suffer hallucinations of a woman and young girl and when he forgets to take medicine prescribed for the issue by Albright, he begins to realise that there’s more than meets the eye with the ‘shedding’ process.
Self/less’ central premise is intriguing enough and the narrative of man wrestling with his mortality has endless philosophical and fantastical possibilities. This is why the film starts off strong; it sets up an absorbing and charming introduction to Damian’s life, though it all quickly descends into silly chase scenes and bizarre shoot outs and its potentially interesting ideas take a backseat to the conventions of action.
Another cause of the film’s steep decline – and possibly its biggest pitfall – is the fact that Kingsley is so commanding in the opening, that Reynolds couldn’t possibly take the character further or deeper. It’s difficult to dislike Reynolds and he has box office draw; he hasn’t quite found his place, though, and is still waiting for that one big performance.
Favouring style-over-substance, there are no real or meaningful contributions to the sci-fi cause in Self/less which ends up being a forgettable affair.