“… managed to crawl out of the hole that its trailer dug, and make me actually enjoy myself.”
The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones; all examples of great trilogies in cinematic history. But none come close to my personal favourite trilogy: The Ryan Reynolds Mind-Swap Trilogy. I’ve decided to dedicate three of my reviews to this trilogy, today reviewing Self/less.
It is my personally held belief that humans are incapable of shedding bias. We can control to what degree our bias effects us, but ultimately we can’t get rid of it. I’ve already discussed this in one of my previous reviews so I won’t go into it further, but the reason I bring it up is because I felt deep down that I would hate Self/less. This feeling almost ruined the movie for me, but luckily it was able to claw its way back into my good graces.
Self/less is about New York Billionaire Damian Hale (played by Ben Kingsley) who knows that his life is fleeting. He decides to contact a specialist in an experimental treatment called “shedding”, wherein your brain is transferred to different body that was grown in a lab. The procedure goes off without a hitch, but Damian (now played by Ryan Reynolds) starts to experience very vivd hallucinations. Some shit goes down and Damian is then being pursued by the very men who blessed him with his new, youthful body and he has to fight for his life.
Like I mentioned, I felt it deep inside of me that I would hate Self/less. Maybe it was the Karl Pilkington inspired plot, maybe it was the absolutely dreadful trailer that I couldn’t help but laugh at when I saw it; whatever it was, it made me almost want to hate the film. Self/less started and I instantly felt vindicated. The writing was dreadful, and Ben Kingsley forced New York accent as about as pleasant as being stabbed in the ear with a screwdriver. Much like when I watched The Chang-Up, a sense of dread filled my heart. I had two more hours of this shit movie to watch, and it was every ounce as bad as I imagined. Luckily the film was able to gradually change.
After the medical procedure, things started to pick up. The film became almost a fantasy that I was indulging in along with the main character. Being given another chance at life is something that most people can only dream of, and I was watching it happen on screen. The move it then made another shift later on and it became more of an action movie. This was beneficial, because I am a sucker for action movies. Self/less was also trying to be a thriller, and this is where the issues come in. I watched the trailer for Self/less many moons ago, but instantly I knew the plot. The trailer was cut in a way that outlined every beat of the film so I knew the “twist” going into it. Luckily, the film didn’t use this twist as a crutch, or at least I didn’t think that it did. Even though I knew where the story was going, I had fun along the way. Sure I didn’t get as surprised as I would have had the trailer not been cut to ruin my experience, but regardless it was a fun experience.
The acting in Self/less was actually pretty good too. Of course I already mentioned Ben Kingsley and his terribly grating accent (seriously, why couldn’t he just use his regular speaking voice?), but those problems disappeared as he became Ryan Reynolds. Everyone else in the film did a good job except for the character of Maddy. Played by Natalie Martinez (who I only know from Death Race), Maddy was an absolutely terribly acted (and possibly written) character. With emotions that changed more often than the weather, and a serious “damsel in distress” complex she added almost nothing to the film except for me repeatedly slapping my open hand to my forehead. You know that something is wrong when a little girl is a more convincing character than the woman who supposedly raised her. Luckily the action scenes in the film were enough to make up for the “acting” problems, and the story was a pretty engaging one overall.
Ultimately Self/less is a movie that thoroughly surprised me. It managed to crawl out of the hole that its trailer dug, and make me actually enjoy myself. Sure it isn’t a flawless movie, but it’s a pretty good time.
I give Self/less a B
Just as a side note, I think I’m starting to notice a pattern in the “Ryan Reynolds Mind-Swap Trilogy”. The movies start of as really shitty versions of themselves, but then improve over time. Of course at this point it could be a coincidence, but we will see what happens when the trilogy comes to an end.