Tarsem Singh continues in his apparent quest to never quite strike a suitable balance between style and substance; Self/Less, his latest directorial project, fails to find either concept over 116 minutes of unremarkable storytelling and uncharacteristically weak visual appeal.
The story, which bears more than a passing resemblance to 1966’s Seconds, centres around New York property magnate, Damian Hale (Sir Ben Kingsley). Rich beyond compare but riddled with cancer, Damian contacts a mysterious company that offers him a chance to extend his mortal existence: transferring his entire consciousness into a laboratory-grown human vessel, allowing Damian to live again in a brand spanking new body (Ryan Reynolds’ body to be exact). After accepting the expensive proposal and beginning his second life, Damian is plagued by hallucinations, visions of memories that do not belong to him, and seeks to discover the truth that he suspects is being hidden from him.
Self/Less gets off to a encouraging start, its solid opening act presents interesting questions on the nature of mortality and consciousness. Unfortunately the film takes a nasty fall at the first or second hurdle, abandoning its potential merit in favour of a bland and uninspiring “man on the run” plot. This sci-fi tinted thriller ends up sat in the mediocre middle-ground between the two genres. Usually Tarsem’s projects make up for their struggling stories with grand visual spectacle but there is none of this present in Self/Less; with the exception of one or two sequences, his reigned-in approach has left the film looking and feeling entirely lacklustre.Considering its premise, it should be no surprise that Sir Ben is less than present as the film progresses, however it’s still sad to see his gold-clad, cold-hearted tycoon take such an early leave. This isn’t any slight against Ryan Reynolds, who performs efficiently while driving the story as the dual-persona lead, it’s just that Kingsley oozes world-wise sophistication. Matthew Goode tries his best as the “overly British so definitely evil” Professor Albright, his character adding as little to the film as the generic action scenes that are carelessly thrown into the mix to provide some semblance of excitement.
Self/Less might be passable as throwaway afternoon viewing in the comfort of your own home, or maybe as a quick piece of daydream fuel about what you could get up to in a new life with millions of dollars and Reynolds’ body. Beyond that it’s an utterly forgettable experience, the kind of film that could easily have been straight-to-DVD in another life.
Self/Less is on wide release in UK & US Cinemas now.