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Worth only seven pence
on 25 March 2009
Will Smith raised his pedigree in the eyes of many when he starred in THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, which was directed by Gabriele Muccino. I quite liked that, so when I noticed that the two of them had teamed up again, I thought I'd give it a go. I went to see this with high hopes, particularly as the premise sounded intriguing - 'Seven names. Seven Strangers. One Secret. Smith plays the character of Ben Thomas, an IRS agent with a fateful secret who embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven complete strangers.'
The trouble is, once I found out what Seven Pounds was about, my interest pretty much collapsed. This is why the producers went to unusual lengths to protect the film's synopsis, going so far as to tell professional critics not to reveal too much in their reviews. Because once you know, you think "Oh, THAT'S what it's about". And just about all semblance of mystery and intrigue fizzles away in moments.
What I can say here, safe in the knowledge that it won't put anyone off or give anything important away, is that Will Smith starts off in this film as a man calling 9-1-1 to report his own suicide. Sounds interesting. Then he starts having flashbacks. We see him being rude to a blind man in a call centre, selling meat. He harrasses a woman in a hospital who has a problem with her heart. He claims to be from the IRS. And he's got this thing about jellyfish. All very weird, all very confusing and I was thinking, what's going on? (And I love films, or books, that make me ask that question) But it's not very long into the film that I realised what was going on, and my immediate thought was 'oh no, please - please make it more substantial, more unusual than that'. And no responsible person who has seen this film should tell you what 'that' is, because once you know, you might not bother. It's more a matter of Will Smith wanting to act even harder in order to get an Oscar nomination (and win, of course) now that he's had a taste of what it feels like to be respected as an actor following his decent efforts in The Pursuit of Happyness. He wants to go one better. But for us, the gullible viewers who pay good money to see him because, well, he's Will Smith and it's a serious movie, be in no doubt that this is nothing more than a dumb, self-indulgent piece of work that reveals itself so early on that you just sit there for the substantial remainder of the running time thinking 'yeah, yeah....yeah....OK....right, come on, get to the end will you'. It's like hearing a not-very-funny joke for the second or third time, you've heard the punchline before and you can't wait for somebody to tell you something new.
Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination despite some beautiful cinematography. All of the best efforts made by those who contributed anything worthwhile are undone by the ultimate pointlessness of the whole exercise. Two stars is really rather generous but to be fair I save the minimum allocation to utter lemons - this is borderline mind you.