There are few directors who have had such polarizing careers. Ed Wood and M. Night Shyamalan top the list. Fiercely competing to top that list of unremarkable directors is Tarsem Singh. Singh is an experienced film maker who has brought us the unforgettable fairytale The Fall and the much forgettable and overly saturated film The Immortals. His career is now at a crossroads with his latest film, Self/Less.
In Self/Less, Ben Kingsley plays Damien Hale, a terminally ill millionaire who has the most impressive gold collection I can think of -- even Goldmember would be jealous. Damien has no emotional connection to the world. The only thing that drives him is money and power. His relationship with his daughter is non-existent. You would think she was adopted by how humble she turned out to be. Hale is looking for a new lease on life -- literally. He seeks out a risky and new procedure called "shedding, led by the mysterious Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode) who helps transplant Damien's mind and soul into a new lifeless body, aka "young Damien" (Ryan Reynolds), all within 5 minutes -- how realistic. This feels like the illegitimate sequel to Face/Off. In some ways I wish it was. Where is Nicolas Cage when you need him?
The whole film Is a tonal nightmare. The writing by Alex and David Pastor is the ultimate downfall of the film. The characters lack depth and make it hard to connect and remain interested in their lives. There are also some continuity issues; the transformation between bodies create a shift in how Kingsley's Damien acts towards others. He is no longer the bigot and selfish person he has always been. His character is by far the weakest and doesn't have a fully developed character arc. I could care less about a millionaire down on his luck in the latter stages of his life. It's called karma. Deal with it.
The only saving grace for this film is the performance from Ryan Reynolds, who has really pushed himself in terms of film roles. He is in a select group of actors who can shift between multiple genres and still give convincing performances. He has an aura of confidence that is bigger than the films themselves.
When summertime rolls around, theaters are usually filled with an abundance of sequels and superheroes. Tarsem Singh's film, Self/Less, fortunately breaks that mold but unfortunately can't break his string of bad films.