Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Natalie Martinez
Directed by: Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”)
Written by: David Pastor (“Carriers”) and Alex Pastor (“Carriers”)
Body-switching mumbo-jumbo has been popping in and out of theaters for the better part of my lifetime, cresting in the ‘80s with kid-friendly comedies like “Vice Versa” and “Like Father, Like Son.” Rarely, it seems, is the concept played for the drama and weirdness that it would result in, instead relying on jokes about how the guys end up dealing with convincing some woman they are who they say they are or having a different dick between their legs. “Self/less” attempts to fill this void, complete with body-swap comedy veteran Ryan Reynolds playing a man on the run, but the film shows its cards too early and follows too predictable a path.
“Self/less” opens with billionaire Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley, with an awful New York accent) dying from cancer. Some shady meetings with a clipped British scientist Albright (Matthew Goode) point toward a certain immortality afforded to the super-rich. You see, Albright has been growing blank humans in a lab and developed a technology to transfer the consciousness of the dying into a brand new body. After staging his death, Damian wakes up in a makeshift lab in the body/identity of Edward Kidner (Ryan Reynolds), a healthy, young (well, sort of…he’s 35) man living the high life in New Orleans. To keep the brain seizures associated with the mind transfer away, Damian must take some pills administered exclusively by Albright, who wants to keep an eye on his patients. But when one of the seizures seems to reveal suppressed memories, Damian grows suspicious and tracks down the woman (Natalie Martinez) from his new-found memory, with dangerous results!
Boring and predictable, “Self/less” could have benefitted from a lot more mind bending and a lot less store-brand Jason Bourne action. When the telegraphed twist kicks in—Goode’s Albright may as well have a maniacal laugh—and sends Reynolds on the run, the movie loses any sort of imagination the casually tossed off miracle of science mind-swapping plot device brings to the proceedings. I didn’t come to see Reynolds shooting oddly-loyal goons and kicking ass using muscle memory, I want to see what the devastating psychological toll of having your old self transferred into a new body that looks nothing like you. But no, Reynolds and Martinez spend the movie on the run with every move telegraphed leaving the movie with no tension whatsoever. Is Albright evil? Was the whole “lab-grown body” thing too good to be true? Will the former cutthroat industrialist end up having a heart of gold? Yes, now go see something better instead.