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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Self/less | Ben Kingsley, Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Derek Luke, Victor Garber, Matthew Goode | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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Self/less | Ben Kingsley, Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Derek Luke, Victor Garber, Matthew Goode | Review

Shed happens.

Well, at least it does if you’re billionaire real estate developer Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley/Ryan Reynolds) and you want to discard your old, cancer-ridden shell and slip into a healthy new “lab-grown” physique.  

There’s just one catch, but it’s a big one.

The “lab-grown” body’s brain contains puzzling flashbacks and its new owner must submit to ongoing scrutiny by a secretive scientific corporation headed by dapper Dr, Albright (Matthew Goode) which includes an intrusive weekly meeting and a refill of seven red capsules that MUST be taken once daily for the new body to perform efficiently.

Hale lives it up in New Orleans with his new, healthy incarnation, free of allergens and disease.  He plays energetic basketball, makes a new friend in Anton (Derek Luke) becomes a ladies man, and parties to jazzy street bands. He eats peanut butter by the bucket.

All looks swell until he forgets to take his required pill and strange images begin to fill his head; a little girl, a dark-haired woman, armed combat soldiers, and a rural water tower flit in and out of his consciousness.  Dr. Albright assures him that these are merely hallucinations, a side effect of the medication.  There couldn’t possibly be any neural baggage from the brain of a brand new body, now could there?

Hale’s quest to find the truth takes him to a Missouri farm, against the wishes of the institute operatives, one of whom is surprisingly familiar.  He teams up with Madeline (Natalie Martinez) and her young daughter Anna (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) who together form an important link to his current self’s past – one that it theoretically should not have.  Hale begins to suspect that his new organic “house” has been lived in before.

The inevitable chase ensues, complete with standard issue violence - car crashes, explosions, and a hail of gunfire. Add a flame thrower and you have the entire second half of the film, disappointing after the promising set-up. Hale bonds with and protects Madeline and Anna as the truth is slowly uncovered, experiencing epiphanies along the way as the audience patiently waits for the plot to catch up with what they know will eventually happen.

Director Tarsem Singh (Mirror Mirror) helms an admirable cast, with a compelling premise by screenwriting Pastor brothers Alex and David (The Last Days) and effective editing by Robert Duffy (Unstoppable) but many of the plot twists are predictable and some are clichéd and tired (i.e. obscenely wealthy mogul with a devoted, non-profit-running, altruistic offspring (Michelle Dockery) can’t even GIVE away money to a good cause because the relationship is so strained.  Please.)

Ryan Reynolds increases his leading man acting chops here, while Ben Kingsley seems uncomfortable as the Brooklyn hood-accented, opulent mogul.  Natalie Martinez is one steady freak-out as Madeline, and Derek Luke demonstrates an easy versatility.  Victor Garber has a small role as Hale’s best friend and longtime business partner, Martin, bringing much needed credibility into the thin second half.

A fascinating beginning and a satisfying denouement don’t quite make up for a bulky middle “sag” that bogs down the energy with generic violence.  It’s hard to absorb all of the futuristic possibilities when most of the sinister goon action has a retro feel that spans decades into the past.  Bullets take precedence over brains, erasing all of the progressive, idealistic science-speak.

Gandhi believed in reincarnation; bet he never thought he’d come back as the Green Lantern.  Talk about an ill-fitting suit.

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