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"Self/Less" Review: Dull, Pointless, Stupid

By Alexander Joenks | Film | July 10, 2015 |

By Alexander Joenks | Film | July 10, 2015 |

Self/Less is a pointless two hours. You’ve seen the trailer? Ben Kingsley is an old rich dying dude, pays a metric shit ton of money to get mind transplanted into Ryan Reynolds, starts having memories that aren’t his own pop up, realizes that this body wasn’t grown in a tube after all, slimy doctor dude warns that if he stops taking the pills then Reynolds will take back over, dramatic and serious music starts up. Given that information from the trailer, I’ll give you one bazigillion Internet dollars if you guess how the movie ends.

Having an obvious ending isn’t a deal breaker, else life would be awfully pointless since we know precisely where that ends up too. It’s the journey, not the destination, and all that. The idea behind Self/Less is decent enough for a fifteen page short story. It’s not enough for a two hour movie. Hell, it’s not enough for a half hour movie. It’s got an interesting set-up, the ending is obvious, the question is, what do you fill the other 90 or so minutes with?

If we’d been given philosophical nuance, or if the film had explored grey areas, if it had poked into the weird and horrific implications such technology might have, if it just decided to be an introspective and quiet film about the nature of identity … if it had bothered using any part of its brain instead of just filling the middle 90 minutes with interminable gunfights, then maybe the film would have had half a chance.

Instead it just trotted out the usual triteness of a massive and shadowy organization with unlimited resources doing evil things for the sake of evil things. Nothing the bad guys are doing really makes the slightest bit of sense once held up to any sort of thought. They have no motivation that survives the most minute inspection.

And the writing is just so incredibly bad every step of the way. For instance, one of the first things that dying dude does in his new Ferrari of a body is go clubbing and get laid. A couple scenes before, he’s reading his own obituary, which in 72 point font announces that he had been 68 years old. His reaction to the kindly nekkid girl? “I haven’t seen anything like that in 52 years.” Because a divorced billionaire hasn’t seen nice breasts since he was sixteen? Seriously man, you didn’t need a mind transplant, you needed Barney Stinson as a life coach.

Or when he goes to track down the family he’s having memories about and slimy doctor’s thugs show up. They chloroform her, tell him that it’s OK, they’ll make it painless and look like an accident, and then literally start using a flamethrower on the house. Gosh, that will TOTALLY calm the guy down who’s having flashbacks to being married to the woman you’re casually talking about murdering. And I’m sure that a fucking flamethrower looks EXACTLY like an electrical short, and the autopsy will conclude that she must have been taking chloroform recreationally.

Compounding the idiotic writing is the overwhelming seriousness that pervades the entire movie. Throw us a bone here people. If you’re going to have nothing thought provoking, terrible writing, and an endless parade of uninspired gunfights, you could at least throw us some damned humor. Because if you’re making a movie this bad and not laughing at yourself at least a little, then I’m not even angry at having to sit through it, I just feel sorry for your delusion.