Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Self/less

This is public call to action, to help Sir Ben Kingsley. The once great man used to be a pillar of Hollywood. In 1982, he starred in Gandhi and won the Academy Award for Best Actor. In 1993, he was one of the leads in the critically acclaimed, award-winning Schindler’s List. Outside of his win for Gandhi, he had 3 other Academy Award nominations for House of Sand and Fog, Bugsy and Sexy Beast. But recently, Sir Ben seems to have lost sight of this. In the last 5 years, Sir Ben has made appearances in Night at the Museum 3, Prince of Persia and the abysmal Robot Overlords. And we won’t even speak of his role in 2008’s The Love Guru. Here he is again, giving his immense talent to a terrible film that truly doesn’t deserve his presence. 


Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray, Tarsem Singh’s Self/less is a hugely disappointing mess. The promising premise is that, in a world where such a procedure is possible, a dying real estate mogul (Sir Ben Kingsley) transfers his consciousness into a young, healthy body (Ryan Reynolds). But shortly after, he finds that neither the procedure nor the company behind it (led by Matthew Goode) are quite what they seem. Sure, it sounds a little predictable and maybe somewhat unoriginal – especially when you realise it’s basically a thinly disguised remake of John Frankenheimer’s Seconds, but this is a concept that could work well if it had the right team behind it. This clearly didn’t. But then, Tarsem Singh’s last film before this was the unbearably bad Snow White retelling Mirror Mirror, so I guess this disaster could’ve been predicted. Self/less’s narrative concept is also ripe for a thought-provoking message on what it is to be alive, or what it is to be young, or other such themes. But no. Tarsem isn’t having any of that. At the expense of any brainy philosophical depth, Self/less succumbs to cliché and instead becomes a rather mindless (Mind/less, if you like) action borefest. 


Yes, Self/less is nothing more than car chases, shoot-outs and things going ‘smash’. There’s nothing bad about the choreography or delivery of these sequences, they’re fairly well-shot and in a daft action film they might be quite entertaining. But here, they could only distract you from the fact that the aimless (aim/less, I’m on fire) narrative is not what you hoped. Or maybe they just reinforce this. Every time I felt like the plot might actually be going somewhere and some action sequence turned up out of nowhere, I got frustrated. It didn’t distract me, it irritated me. It’s almost as if the director knows what he’s doing – “yeah, the story is shit…maybe if I ram the film full of action, nobody will notice”. We noticed, Tarsem. This also gives less time for the actors to shine. That said, the only actor in Self/less who could shine is Sir Ben. As the deathbed billionaire, Kingsley puts in a decent enough performance but you can tell his heart isn’t fully in it, for the rather limited screen-time he gets. Despite high billing and his face slapped on the posters, he only appears for about 15 minutes. 

Still, Kingsley on half-power is better than most people on full. That includes Ryan Reynolds, who’s never really been one for true acting talent. Here, he just runs around a bit, shoots a gun a bit and drives a car a bit. And that’s all he needs to do to put bums in seats, although his relevance is declining and his leading roles are getting fewer – at least until the long-awaited Deadpool is released, and his resurrection begins. Until then, he will continue to appear in wank like this. And if Kingsley’s CV is anything to go by, he will also keep on pumping this shit out. Why? Because it pays the bills.


In conclusion, Self/less is awful. It’s just awful. There was a time when I’d confidently say “any film with Ben Kingsley in it could never be truly bad”, but in recent years he has shat all over my logic. Sir Ben, I love you, but get help. Please. 

Self/less is a bloody terrible film which disappoints at almost every opportunity. 1/5 .

★☆☆☆☆

Sam Love


Self/less at CeX


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