Hey Ben Kingsley, Daniel Day-Lewis called, he wants his Bill the Butcher accent back.
Just a nit. Sir Ben, of course, doesn’t have to worry about his own legacy — the universally respected actor earned an Oscar for his 1982 role as Gandhi — but Damian Hale, the ailing Donald Trump-like mogul he plays in the sci-fi thriller “Self/less,” that’s another story.
With so much more to accomplish than his terminal illness will allow, Hale turns to an underground medical procedure called “shedding,” which puts his mind into the young and healthy body of Edward (Ryan Reynolds). Fans of cinema know these things almost never work out. The glitch here is that Edward needs to regularly take anti-rejection meds, which the medical director keeps under tight control, to suppress the consciousness of the body’s original owner.
Oh, and it turns out Edward has a wife and little girl who thought he was dead. So good luck not having that mess you up.
Man’s eternal quest for immortality has run the gamut from a bronze acknowledgement under a stained glass church window to a Manhattan high-rise cementing a magnate’s legacy. Yet often merely connecting to the next generation on a visceral level is tangibly more satisfying. That’s something elusive to the elder Hale and his estranged daughter. And it’s what he most admires of Edward when he learns his new body was part of a Faustian bargain to pay for a life-saving medical procedure for Edward’s daughter. Oh irony, where is thy sting? Wait, it’s right there; it wasn’t hard to find at all.
“Self/less” is hardly flaw/less, but it is an engaging story with some clever twists and a satisfying wrap-up. Most other critics were less kind. With it, we also get a peek at Trump’s real-life gaudy golden fabled Trump Tower apartment, which here stands-in as Damian’s crib. (Coincidentally, the only other film to shoot there was another deal with the devil, 1997’s “The Devil’s Advocate” with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino.)
Regrettably, there’s very little Kingsley here. But freed from the formula of his trademark rom/coms, Reynolds carries this one as a part action hero, part family man and part soul-searcher.
Definitely better than expected.
Med City Movie Guy Rating: 4 Honks
Get outta my head
Flipping the script is a popular Hollywood gimmick. In movies like “Freaky Friday” (1976: Jodie Foster, 2003: Lindsay Lohan), “Like Father Like Son,” and “18 Again!” a kid swaps bodies with her mother, his father, and his grandfather respectively; in “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” and “The Shaggy Dog” with a mackerel and Bratislavian sheepdog. In a small subset of the genre, however, the plots are more … “cerebral.” Cabezas cohabitate. Like in these:
Total Recall (1990)
Arnold Schwarzenegger is construction worker Douglas Quaid who, on a limited budget, opts to visit Mars by having trip memories implanted. When the procedure goes awry, Quaid discovers he was only a squatter on secret agent Carl Hauser’s brain. Iconic sci-fi, great camp. Sharon Stone costars. Best line: “You got a lotta nerve showin’ your face around here!” “Look who’s talking.”
After Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is murdered, what is left of his body is used as the nucleus for a revolutionary new cyborg Über-cop. But as the calculating machine encounters smidgens of Murphy’s past, it becomes clear that not all of the lawman’s brain was erased. 2014 reboot was entirely unnecessary.
All of Me (1984)
Crotchety dying millionairess Lily Tomlin enlists a mystic to transfer her mind to a willing vessel (Victoria Tennant) but the vase that contains her soul accidentally falls from a window onto Steve Martin passing by on the sidewalk below. Martin does a great job struggling with Tomlin’s caustic attitude and her contrarian control of half of his body. Directed by Carl Reiner.