Self/Less Review

  • Directing7
  • Writing7
  • Acting7.5

Tarsem Singh's Self/Less is standard action affair, only shot with a bit more visual style thanks to Singh's more-than-competent camerawork and acted with charming ease by Ryan Reynolds.


Tarsem Singh‘s Self/Less is a slightly above average action film, blending together a crazy sci-fi concept with standard action sequences that are made slightly better by Singh’s camerawork and star Ryan Renyolds‘ constant charm and on-screen charisma. The script is light and simple, but together Singh and Reynolds create something that’s better than it rightfully should be, yet still forgettable when compared to other summer films.

Damian (Ben Kingsley) is a wealthy old man faced with incurable cancer. He’s left with no choice but to either face death once and for all or attempt a weird (and probably illegal) concept known as shedding, which allows one to transfer their mind and soul into another body — or at least that’s what a shady doctor by the name of Albright (Matthew Goode) promises him.

He does it, despite his better instincts and emerges as a young man (Ryan Reynolds) with an entire new life ahead of him or so he thinks.

Suddenly, Damian starts experiencing intense hallucinations and dreams and eventually he discovers that these aren’t just dreams, but memories from the body’s previous owner.

Self/Less is surprisingly directed by visionary Tarsem Singh. Singh is known for his previous work on The Fall, The Cell and Immortals — all of which came with distinct direction that focused much more on visual flare than actual storytelling.

Here, Singh steps back and attempts to give the story a little more attention, even if things slip into typical action fodder rather quickly.

Self/Less looks nice, but never stands out as visually striking and the story’s high-concept sci-fi angle is never really explored past basic detail once the action starts to pick up and become the center of attention.

That’s okay though, because Singh shoots the action coherently and violently, with Reynolds’ character snapping necks and collecting a decent amount of head shots.

I was pleasantly surprised with how action-packed the film was and yet somewhat disappointed with its decision on sticking with a PG-13 rating when there was clearly enough action and violence to kick things up to an R-rated level.

Ryan Reynolds is the highlight here, again reminding us that he has enough charm and on-screen charisma to carry pretty much any film. Self/Less focuses less and less on his comedic timing and charm and more on his generic action movie star approach, which is fine, but terribly under-utilizes the man’s talent.

Matthew Goode’s slimy Dr. Albright is your basic cookie cutter villain, with little surprise as to what his one-dimensional motives are.

Self/Less is a harmless action film that rarely achieves greatness, but never actually fails its premise. It delivers enough action and surface storytelling to keep even the most distracted of minds invested, even if it could’ve gone much further given the talent both in front of and behind the lens.

Tarsem Singh continues his weird obsession with immortality and the morals of it in a film that wants desperately to dig down and grab something more, but settles for shallow meanings and quick action and that’s almost fine, because Reynolds appears interested enough in the material to make the film click where other actors would struggle, but the film always leaves you wondering if it could’ve been much better in the hands of someone with a better handle on the script.

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