Movie Review: “Self/less”


When the big breakthrough comes, will most of the world even hear about it? If it’s an expensive, life-extension-by-transplanting-memories procedure , will the mega-rich even let the word get out?
That’s the premise behind “Self/less,” a generic but still thought-provoking variation on science fiction’s body switch formula.
Ben Kingsley plays Damian, a sickly titan of New York real estate, estranged from his daughter (Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey”), with only a close business associate (Victor Garber) to confide in during his last days. But that associate, knowing Damian’s proximity to death, slips him a card. There’s this thing called “shedding,” he’s told. He should look into it.
Damian does, and that leads him to Albright, given a silky salesman’s purr by Matthew Goode.
“We cater to the great, the visionary,” Albright tells him. In other words, the filthy rich. For $250 million, Damian can start over, with most of his money, all his memories and, it turns out, Ryan Reynold’s body.
That’s who Damian wakes up as. But there are conditions, rules and medications. The odd scar and occasional violent flashbacks make us, and Damian, wonder just whose body he got and how he came to get it.
Director Tarsem Singh (“Immortals,””Mirror Mirror”) doles out the clues sparingly. Eventually, this is going to turn into an action film, but he takes his time getting to the chases, shootouts, explosions and big revelations. Damian enjoys all the indulgences that having a new, healthy, handsome and rich body offers in the Sin City of the South — New Orleans. Then things get “real.”
“Self/less” doesn’t offer many surprises. It’s a lot like other body-switch thrillers, and is practically a remake of the 1966 John Frankenheimer  rich-guy-buys-handsome-young-body tale “Seconds.” But it has generous pleasures — Reynolds’ inherent empathy, his wry way with a look or a line, Goode’s oily salesman-of-science turn, Kingsley’s hint that as ruthless as Damian might have been, impending death has awakened his humanity. That makes the play-on-words title pay off.

Derek Luke turns up in a choice supporting role and other characters are introduced to bring pathos to what is essentially a lightweight genre actioner.
“Self/less” doesn’t re-invent the body-switch movie so much as make it relevant, place it within the zeitgeist and make us wonder how close we are to this kind of immortality, and how long after that the super rich will let it slip that they’re the only ones who can afford it.


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, some sexuality, and language

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Natalie Martinez
Credits: Directed by Tarsem Singh, script by David and Alex Pastor. A Focus Features release.

Running time: 1:56

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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