by Michael Cox

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday July 11, 2015

Ryan Reynolds stars in 'Self/less'
Ryan Reynolds stars in 'Self/less'  (Source:Focus Features)

Stealing life from others to prolong your own -- it's a premise with so many possibilities. But the science fiction thriller "Self/less" is more interested in being a summer blockbuster than it is in being something brilliant.

Ryan Reynolds leads a smart and interesting cast of actors, like Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, and Michelle Dockery, but the material doesn't allow them to do much with their parts.

Billionaire industrialist Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is financially set -- he literally has a gold plated penthouse. But all of the money in the world means little when his daughter Claire (Michelle Dockery of "Downton Abbey") won't talk to him and he is quickly dying of terminal cancer.

A mysterious business card tells him to look into a process called "shedding," and he does as the card commands. He meets the strangely villainous Professor Albright (Matthew Goode of "The Good Wife"), who tells him that there's a perfectly safe procedure that will allow him to transfer his mind into a genetically harvested body -- it's beautiful, it's new and it was grown in a lab in the USA.

Of course, there's a catch: For some mysterious reason, he has to pretend that he is dead and he can't have contact with anyone from his old life. He must adopt a new identity, that of "Edward," in New Orleans.

Damian's consciousness is transferred into a strikingly handsome and healthy bundle of organs (Ryan Reynolds), which he makes the best use of, as a bevy of babes line up to bounce on his bed. The operation is deemed a success.

Nevertheless, this new body comes with a few quirks that "Edward" will need to break in. The worst of these is a series of hallucinations of a former life. (I don't want to give away any spoilers -- but all the spoilers here are as obvious as Albright's impression of a cross between Mephistopheles and Mr. Burns.)

If you hope to see some interesting performances (because after all, we know these actors are capable of them), throw a bucket of cold water on yourself. Dockery has a throwaway part, and every interesting nuance of Kingsley's character vanishes when he becomes Reynolds. (Apparently, when you get a new body you get a fresh, new "California boy" accent with it.)

That's not to say Reynolds is awful. He shines in his comic scenes and in his warm family moments. He's also not bad in his ass-kicking fight sequences. (Expertise in hand-to-hand combat is something that comes free with a hot new body as well.)

When Oscar Wilde told this tale as "The Picture of Dorian Grey," it became a literary classic. But director by Tarsem Singh and writers by David and ņlex Pastor are more interested in shoehorning this futuristic "Faust" into a formula for a box office success. This movie goes exactly where you expect it to every step of the way. Damian/Edward is betrayed by everyone we know will betray him, he gets himself into a death-defying car chase, he rids the world of a villain with a spectacular killing and he brings about a happy ending.

If you're looking to turn your brain off, you've come to the right place. If you want to contemplate the moral complexities of scientific breakthroughs, go somewhere else. The science here is on par with the science in "Young Frankenstein," but that film has more depth.


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