Urban Cinefile
"My guessing completely wrongly about the acceptance of Showgirls, for example, proves pretty well that my taste and my sensibilities are quite different from an American's - "  -Paul Verhoeven
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday, October 15, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR A VIDEO_FILE
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

SELF/LESS

SYNOPSIS: Real estate magnate Damian (Ben Kingsley) has acquired great wealth, but money means little now that he is dying of cancer. In an attempt to become immortal, he undergoes a radical, secret medical procedure that transfers his consciousness into the body of a healthy young man. After the procedure, Damian (Ryan Reynolds) takes some time to adjust. But when he begins to uncover the secret behind his new body, he discovers that the organization that gave him his second chance will kill without hesitation to protect themselves.

Review by Louise Keller:
Audacious and intriguing - but ultimately bogged down by its preposterousness, this grand-scale film with themes of immortality is in part body-swap, in part action thriller with a side-romance thrown in for good measure. The moral issues are the most interesting and sibling screenwriters David Pastor and Alex Pastor have concocted a juicy fable in which the brain that is the be-all; not be thwarted by a failing body. With plot elements that echo John Frankenheimer's 1966 film Seconds, director Tarsem Singh excels in setting the scene but his earnest approach limits the film's ability to fly.

It's a stretch to imagine Ben Kingsley turning into Ryan Reynolds, but even more so to imagine Kingsley's ageing, scrooge-like and terminally ill Damian (who is not the most likeable of men) becoming a pretty good guy (as Damian a la Reynolds), who suddenly acquires strong moral principles. But putting that aside, we watch with fascination as the wealthy Damian, surrounded by marble columns and gold gilt opulence (even his cocktail shaker is gold) pays $250 million to the secret Phoenix Biogenic Corporation's Albright (Matthew Goode) for a body swap - or shedding. Shedding skins like snakes. There's a wonderful understatement about Albright's line: 'Death has some side effects' as he tells the youthful Damian about potential rejection symptoms of hallucinations, shaky vision and 'a new body smell'.

Conceptually, the plot reveals its complexities by the pumpkin water tower in St Louis, when Damian meets Madeline (Natalie Martinez) and young daughter (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). The evolving romantic element between Martinez and Reynolds feels syrupy and is unbelievable. The thriller genre kicks in that this point, with blazing guns, car chases, explosions, spectacular action and plot directions that make the head spin. As things become more and more ludicrous, there's a feeling of disappointment as the leap of faith we have happily taken does not live up to expectations. There is also a subplot concerning Damian's estranged daughter Claire (Michelle Dockery) that equally fails to play out credibly, especially in its resolution.

The performances are fun to watch and Goode is understated and chilling as the Dr Frankenstein. Reynolds is charismatic as usual but there's a niggling feeling about his casting. Kingsley is utterly convincing as the nasty real-estate magnate willing to resort to desperate measures. It's flawed but nonetheless, the film raises fascinating questions and the debate about oblivion and immortality offers much food for thought.

Email this article

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SELF/LESS (M)
(US, 2015)

CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Ben Kingsley

PRODUCER: Ram Bergman, Peter Schlessel, James D. Stern

DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh

SCRIPT: David Pastor, Alex Pastor

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brendan Galvin

EDITOR: Robert Duffy

MUSIC: Dudu Aram, Antonio Pinto

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom Foden

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 23, 2015







Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017