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  Self/Less Swap Shop
Year: 2015
Director: Tarsem Singh
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Ben Kingsley, Victor Garber, Derek Luke, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Melora Hardin, Michelle Dockery, Sam Page, Brendan McCarthy, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Emily Tremaine, Griff Furst, Cedric Palmisano
Genre: Action, Thriller, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is a billionaire businessman who in spite of his huge wealth and influence still feels as if he has new worlds to conquer even at the age of 68. What makes that unfortunate is that he is dying of a terminal illness, and doesn’t have much time left on this Earth before he expires; he has been very ruthless in his dealings down the years, and plans to be the same with his cancer, for if he can beat this, he can beat anything. However, the scheme he has settled upon is something called shredding, a top secret process that places the mind and memories of one person into a specially prepared body, so they may live anew. What could possibly go wrong?

If you had seen the John Frankenheimer cult classic Seconds, you may have an inkling, but for all the claims that Self/Less was a remake of that nineteen-sixties science fiction horror, this was in no way a horror and a fairly complacent effort as sci-fi, preferring to turn the premise into something better off described as an action thriller as was the case with many high concept movies employing that fantastical angle in the search for a blockbuster. This was not one of those, not for want of trying but it didn't really take off with the public, doing middling business to a largely lukewarm reception, and it was not difficult to understand the reasons, as for all its clever ideas it didn't do much with them.

Well, one clever idea, which had been used by Frankenheimer to explore the modern malaise and the aching abyss at the heart of the mid-life crisis being suffered increasingly by the Western male, yet in this was just an excuse for Ryan Reynolds to pose as the man of action with a spot of sensitivity to appeal to his female fans. He certainly didn't get to fire off the quips his famously quick wit would have given him access to, playing it more or less vanilla in a Hitchcockian hero style, the man on the run with the love interest (in this case Natalie Martinez as Madeline) though with the novelty of a moppet to take care off as well (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Anna) for as he discovers, Damian's new body had a previous owner.

One element that was not a success in the same way as the previous effort was that while in the sixties, Rock Hudson discussed intensely with John Randolph just how to convince the audience that their characters had the same personality, here you never believed for a minute that Ben Kingsley (who only appears for the first quarter of an hour) would ever have turned into Reynolds, they both appeared to be two distinct people, which in fact they were. This left that opening act something of a dead weight that could easily have been dispensed with or at least turned into flashbacks in the main stretch of the plot, as it would have suited the film better if the sense of mystery had been processed into more of an enigmatic affair, something the director Tarsem Singh could have given his imagination full flight to.

As it was, once Damian, relocated in his fresh bod to New Orleans and making the most of his basketball skills you cannot envisage Sir Ben actually taking part in, starts having strange visions he allows doubts to enter his mind that this new form was grown in a laboratory as the boss of the organisation, Albright (Matthew Goode hired for his accent), told him. Damian has to keep taking the tablets lest these visions get worse, but they are all a heavy hint that Albright has been committing crimes to secure these bodies from supposedly dead folks, which is where Madeline (who spends most of the film crying) and Anna enter the narrative as they were wife and daughter to the man Damian is now inhabiting. Any moves toward pushing back any parameters of modern identity and finishing off the movie with a flourish, depressing as it was in the first version, were quickly quashed as it all wound up as you would expect, indeed the same manner in which too many of these sci-fi thrillers had done since the nineties, you know the drill, bullets fly and a big yet somehow underwhelming confrontation. Music by Dudu Aram and Antonio Pinto.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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