What happens when an extremely wealthy aristocrat dying of cancer undergoes a medical procedure that transfers his consciousness to the body of a healthy young man? Mayhem, naturally.
Self/less opens in theaters today, bringing Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley to a dramatic head in the most recent sci-fi thriller from Focus Features. Just when Kingsley's character starts getting used to life in the fast lane (and the beautiful women that come with having a body like Reynolds'), the original young man slowly comes back—threatening Kingsley's livelihood all over again. The Imitation Game's Matthew Goode joins the high profile ensemble alongside Downtown Abbey star Michelle Dockery as Kingsley's estranged daughter.
Here's what the critics have to say about the movie:
• "For a while, as "Self/less" unfurls all of its knotty complications, the movie gives off a junkily entertaining vibe, like the A-picture knockoffs that used to roll down the assembly line of shlock impresarios Roger Corman and Menahem Golan. But the more the narrative straightens out into a series of shootouts, punch-outs and car chases, the more monotonous it becomes (especially at 116 minutes)," Variety's Scott Foundas pens. The critic also believes Reynolds was "miscast" in his role because although he, "holds his own in the fight scenes, [he] seems far too decent to have ever been the cold-blooded capitalist Kingsley plays in the film's early scenes."
• The Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein calls Kingsley's New York accent "ridiculous," continuing that although director Tarsem Singh, "certainly knows his way around a sleek visual, and Reynolds proves a plausible action hero....the script largely eschews any cleverness for a kind of psychosocial ponderousness that milks the film of its fun factor. In the end, the movie best serves as an object lesson in the pitfalls of more-is-less Hollywood filmmaking."
• Despite A.O. Scott of The New York Timescalling Self/less a film with, "a smooth, opulent look [with] a plot that consists less of twists than of carefully signaled and executed turns" without a "conscience" or a "soul," the critic also believes these shortcomings aren't "to say it's all bad. Mr. Reynolds is an appealing actor, and it's easy enough to compensate for his limitations if you let yourself believe that he's really Ben Kingsley the whole time."
• "The best that can be said for 'Self/less' is that, unlike so many recent films that have shot in Louisiana strictly for the tax breaks, this is a movie that squeezes New Orleans for every last drop of local color it can, from jazz bands to Mardi Gras parade floats. (Even chicory coffee plays a key role in the plot.)," Alonso Duralde writes for The Wrap. But he also feels the film misses the mark when it comes to tackling the predominant message. "'Self/less' makes a few stabs at bigger notions regarding second chances and accepting one's own mortality, but it's more interested in sending Damian on the run with the understandably upset wife (Natalie Martinez, 'End of Watch') and daughter (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) of Reynolds' previous incarnation."
• L.A. Weekly's Amy Nicholson writes, "Kingsley is such a good actor that he practically sabotages the film," continuing, "Instead, Self/less leans on the natural empathy of Reynolds, who might have the most visible conscience in cinema. When you look at him, you see an insecure kid worried about being nice." Nicholson believes the film might have been better if it played up the actual comedy behind switching bodies. "We're steeling ourselves for awkward nonsense — say, hot Damian accidentally making his own daughter (Michelle Dockery), an estranged environmental activist, fall in lust with him. But then brothers Alex and David Pastor's script tries to get smart and winds up getting really, really dumb."
• Wesley Morris of Grantland calls the film "nonsensical," adding that, "The plot is almost two hours of empty calories built around Reynolds," whose "giving you most of what he's got. You just never sense that you couldn't have gotten the same performance from about eight other men, which, I imagine, is how the role wound up with him. With these action movies and romantic comedies, that often feels true of Reynolds: Somebody else said no first."
Will you see Self/less? Sound off in the comments!