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Self/Less (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

SELF/LESS (2015)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Natalie Martinez, Derek Luke, Victor Garber

Written By: David Pastor, Alex Pastor

Directed By: Tarsem Singh

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Self/Less is nothing new and nothing deep, but it’s not bad, either.  It’s a fair enough way to spend rainy day time on the couch once it hits the streaming service, which is probably how you’ll see it should you choose to, because it sure won’t last in theatres.

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“I don’t feel immortal.”

The weirdest thing just happened.

I saw a movie starring Ryan Reynolds… and I actually liked him in it.  Sure, the role specifically demands nothing more strenuous than looking pretty and spending the majority of this highly sanitized film’s runtime having no more than half a clue (if that) about what’s going on, but hey – a home run is still a home run, even if it barely makes it over the wall at a hitter’s ballpark.

I’m not calling the entirety of Self/Less a home run, mind – safe at first on a fielder’s choice and then stranded to end the inning, I’d say – but whatever problems the movie may have, Ryan Reynolds really isn’t one of them.

No, I have not been possessed by the transferred mind of a terminally ill rich dude; why do you ask?

Oh, right.  The plot.

Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley, Iron Man 3) is an exceptionally wealthy man who is only months – perhaps weeks – away from death by cancer.  But then he gets an enticing offer: for just a quarter billion dollars and the understanding that officially speaking, he will have to die, he can have his consciousness transferred to a young, healthy body “grown in a lab” (Ryan Reynolds, Safe House).  With very little to lose and blood starting to come up when he coughs, Damian agrees to the chance at what essentially amounts to immortality. 

At first, things seem to go without a hitch.  The procedure is quick and painless, Damian (now “Edward”) remains rich, and he’s having all the sex he can stand with as many different women as he can find.  All he has to do is remember to take a little red pill once a day.  But when he misses a dose, he finds himself having visions of another life that’s not his own, and he suddenly starts to wonder if maybe his new body didn’t come from a test tube at all…

Wow.  Ya think?

Let’s be honest: there’s absolutely nothing new or surprising to be found in Self/Less.  The same story or something like it has been done many times before, and even if you somehow haven’t experienced any of those prior efforts, pretty much everything about this flick is safe and predictable.  No going out on any limbs here; just straight up sanitary formula that cruises easily in the risk-free PG-13 lane, with lots of signs posted along the side of the road just to make sure that no one gets lost.  And that’s just fine.  Indeed, the lack of pretentiousness demonstrated by Self/Less is somehow refreshing after a long string of movies pretending to be “game changers.”

Maybe Ryan Reynolds being totally on point filled the movie’s “radical newness” quota; who knows? 

Visually, Self/Less is pretty (or at least nice) to look at, which should (to carry on with our theme) come as no surprise given a director with the artistic bent of Tarsem Singh.  Both he and the camera seem quite aware of the limits of the leading man and of the screenplay, and they present both to the greatest advantage possible while working around their weaknesses. 

And yes, this script has plenty of fundamental weaknesses.  The idea that the Damian Hale audiences meet at the beginning of the movie would actually have any kind of “moral crisis” over events as they unfold is questionable, and the level of aggressive behavior displayed b y the villains – not to mention their ultimate aim – is never really explained or fleshed out.  But thanks to the fact that Self/Less makes no pretentious claims, these and lots of other things don’t matter.  Mediocrity, it seems, has its rewards, and mediocrity that looks pretty enough can even masquerade as “good” when there’s a driving rain outside and a comfy couch with a beer in easy reach inside.

I’m not quite ready to call Self/Less “good” in a strict critical sense, but I will say that it’s “good enough,” and for a movie like this, good enough actually is.  Especially if you wait for it to be carried by a streaming service that doesn’t charge you anything beyond the normal monthly subscription fee to see it.

It is, after all, still a Ryan Reynolds movie.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2015

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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