The end result is Self/less, a blockbuster action flick with a highly confused premise.
Directed by Tarsem Singh, the story centres on a dying real estate mogul named Damian Hayes (Ben Kingsley). Determined to stay alive, Hayes decides to undergo a radical medical procedure known as ‘shedding’.
But there’s a twist: in order to cheat death Hayes must agree to take on a new identity by having his consciousness transferred to a younger, genetically-engineered body (Ryan Reynolds).
The organisation behind the switch operates with anonymity and after undergoing the procedure Hayes discovers his new body may not be what it seems.
It sounds bizarre but if approached correctly, this ridiculous concept actually could have made for an interesting film.
“Imagine what Steve Jobs would have done with another 50 years on the planet,” says the professor behind the body switch.
With youth on his side, it would have been captivating to see a younger Hayes use his skills to build a real estate empire from scratch.
Instead, Self/less chooses to go down the path of mindless action, pursuing a ludicrous twist which sees a reborn Hayes on the run from the organisation that developed him.
To add insult to injury, the new and improved character is nothing like his predecessor. In the film’s opener, Hayes is painted as a shark-like real estate agent. The new Hayes, however, is a compassionate individual bearing absolutely no resemblance to his former self.
Under the alias Edward Hale, young Hayes moves to New Orleans and decides there’s only one way to make up for lost time – sleep with a bunch of attractive women and play copious amounts of basketball.
As an action film, Self/less is reasonably entertaining. The chase scenes provide some elements of suspense and there are certainly enough explosions to captivate your attention.
And if that’s the intention of this film, then it’s served its purpose. But the messages attempting to break through the mayhem suggest otherwise and it’s difficult to overlook the implication of something larger.
Hayes’ fractured relationship with his activist daughter is another compelling storyline drowned out by chase scenes. In the film’s opener, there is an obvious clash of beliefs between the two, leaving us wondering whether the characters will be reunited later in the film. Although there is some closure, it’s done so towards the end in a rushed and ill-conceived manner.
And if you’re thinking ‘at least Ben Kingsley is a lead’, then prepare to be disappointed. His appearance in the film is all-too-brief as a muscular Ryan Reynolds carries the entire story.
As an actor Reynolds seems capable of expanding his range, but unfortunately he’s working with a highly predictable and uninspiring script.
On the plus side, there’s some great scenery. The colourful city of New Orleans features in a brief montage as Hayes relives his youth and a sweeping view of New York atop a high-rise building stars in the film’s opener.
If you accept Self/less for what it is then you may find some enjoyment in the blockbuster action. Just don’t expect anything more.