Self/less is a 2015 American science fiction action thriller film directed by Tarsem Singh, produced by Ram Bergman and James D. Stern and written by Alex and David Pastor. The film tells the story of a business tycoon and billionaire named Damian Hale, who is diagnosed with a deadly illness. However, he manages to somehow save his life with the aid of Professor Albright, who transfers Hale's consciousness into a new, younger body. The film stars Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Victor Garber, Derek Luke, and Ben Kingsley.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tarsem Singh|
|Music by||Antônio Pinto|
|Edited by||Robert Duffy|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$30.5 million|
The film was originally set to release on February 27, 2015, but because of multiple setbacks, it was not released until July 10, 2015. It was produced by Endgame Entertainment and was financed by FilmDistrict and was predicted to be financially successful, due to its association with the producers Ram Bergman and James D. Stern, who also produced Looper, as well as the ensemble cast. However the film only grossed $12 million in North America and a total of $30 million worldwide, against a $26 million production budget. Upon release, the film received generally negative reviews from critics, with praise for the concept and performances but criticism towards the storytelling, action sequences, effects, and stunts.
Billionaire New Yorker Damian Hale is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He finds a business card directing him to Professor Albright, who informs him about a medical procedure called "shedding", in which one's consciousness is transferred to an artificially grown body. Damian agrees to the procedure, and follows Albright's instructions to stage his own public death. Albright transfers him into a new body and prescribes medication to alleviate the vivid hallucinations which he claims are side effects of the procedure.
Damian starts a new life in New Orleans under the assumed name of Edward Kidner and quickly befriends his neighbor Anton. He forgets to take his medicine, and has hallucinations of a woman and child. Damian questions Albright who dismisses it, but accidentally mentions details of the hallucinations that Damian had not discussed.
Albright arranges for Damian to move to Hawaii, but Damian, convinced the hallucinations are a memory, identifies a landmark he saw in his vision and heads to a farmhouse outside of St. Louis. There, he finds the woman, Madeline, who reacts to him as her apparently deceased husband Mark. Damian plays along as Mark, though shocked to learn that Mark sold himself to Albright in order to pay for their daughter Anna's life-saving treatment. Damian and Madeline are suddenly attacked by Albright's men, including Anton. Damian fatally wounds Anton and kills his accomplices, then flees with Madeline to collect Anna from school.
At a motel, Damian uses a laptop to research "shedding" and discovers an elderly Dr. Francis Jensen, now deceased, was the pioneer researcher in the field of transhumanism. In a video, Damian notices a tic Jensen shares with Albright, then sees Albright sitting next to Jensen, deducing that Jensen has shed himself into Albright's body.
Damian finds Jensen's wife, Phyllis, in a nursing home, but she is suffering from alzheimer's and remembers nothing. Damian lures Jensen to the facility, and Jensen reveals that the pills will eventually eliminate Mark's personality, but without the pills, Damian's consciousness will die and Mark's will re-emerge.
Jensen escapes when more killers arrive. Damian is almost overpowered, but Madeline wounds the attacker who proves to be Anton in a new body. Anton reveals that he has shed multiple times. While Damian confiscates Anton's pills, Anton taunts Madeline to ask her 'husband' why he can't answer personal questions about their life.
Madeline confronts “Mark” over his lack of knowledge of their personal details, and Damian reveals the entire story. He then takes her and Anna to his friend Martin O'Neill and convinces Martin to arrange for Madeline and Anna to flee to the Caribbean. When he and Madeline discover Anna playing with Martin's previously deceased child Tony, Martin admits that he used shedding, and that Albright's men are coming. Damian reveals shedding's secret to Martin who also believed that the bodies were artificially grown. Damian distracts Jensen's men while Martin flees with the others. Damian again fatally injures Anton, but the other thugs realize that Damian is alone and turn to recapture Madeline and Anna.
Damian stops taking his medicine in order to experience Mark's memories. This succeeds in revealing that Jensen has a lab in an abandoned warehouse. Jensen captures him and starts to shed Anton into Mark's body, but Damian, remembering that metal interferes with the process, hides a bullet casing in his mouth, destroying Anton's consciousness. Damian, still as Mark, masquerades as Anton and rescues the others. He kills Jensen, then has Martín complete Madeline and Anna's escape to the Caribbean.
Damian visits his estranged daughter Claire, but does not reveal his presence inside Mark, simply giving her a letter that serves to reconcile Claire with her “deceased” father. Damian then travels to the Caribbean and stops taking his medicine. The real Mark re-emerges and finds a video message from Damian, thanking him for the time he gave him. Mark reunites with his family.
- Ryan Reynolds as Damian Hale/Mark Bitwell: Reynolds plays Mark Bitwell, the man who has decided to sell his body in order to cover his daughter's medical bills. Bitwell's body is overtaken by Hale's consciousness as a vessel to live through.
- Natalie Martinez as Madeline Bitwell: Wife of Mark Bitwell, Madeline is living life convinced her husband has died.
- Matthew Goode as Albright/Dr. Jensen: The creator of the "shedding" process, Dr. Jenson underwent the process in his assistant Albright's body. He is the mastermind of the process, but keeps the secret that instead of engineering human bodies in his laboratory, they pay people considerable amounts of money to donate their bodies as vessels.
- Ben Kingsley as Damian Hale: A wealthy business man who has a terminal illness. He seeks the best care money can buy, a new body.
- Derek Luke as Anton: First introduced in the movie as Damian's new friend, it is later discovered that Anton works for Albright and was planted in Damian's new life.
- Victor Garber as Martin O'Neill, Damian's close friend
- Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Anna Bitwell, Mark's and Madeline's daughter
- Melora Hardin as Judy O'Neill, Martin's wife
- Michelle Dockery as Claire Hale, Damian's estranged daughter
- Sam Page as Carl
- Brendan McCarthy as Anton 2
- Thomas Francis Murphy as Dr. Jensen
- Sandra Ellis Lafferty as Phyllis Jensen
- Emily Tremaine as Mallory
- Teri Wyble as Andrea
- Mariana Vicente as Leah
- Dylan Lowe as Tony O'Neill
Endgame Entertainment and FilmDistrict financed the film, who quickly put the film into development after the two companies saw success with their previous sci-fi film Looper. FilmNation pre-sold the film at Cannes in 2013 and it was the first film to completely sell out at the festival due to universal appeal and the strong pre-sales limited the two financiers' exposure to the budget. FilmDistrict was set to distribute the film in the United States, but the company shut down and was absorbed into Universal's subsidiary Focus Features.
The film was originally set to release on February 27, 2015. On July 2, 2014, the film was rescheduled to release on April 17, 2015. However, on November 8, 2014, the studio once again postponed the film for a July 10, 2015 release.
On May 20, 2015, Focus Features relaunched their Gramercy Pictures label for action, horror, and science-fiction movies. Self/less would be one of Gramercy's new releases. However, Gramercy had no credit on the film when it was released.
Self/less grossed $12.3 million in North America and $18.2 million in other territories for a total of $30.5 million, against a production budget of $26 million.
The film opened in North America on July 10, 2015 in 2,353 theaters, earning $5.4 million in its opening weekend, ranking number eight at the domestic box office.
The film also opened in Sweden and Turkey on the same day as the United States. It opened in fifth place in the latter with $135,191 from 208 screens. The movie stayed in the box office for six weeks, ending with a total of $495,953. The film opened in Italy on September 10, 2015, and finished in seventh place with a total of $353,291.
Self/less has received generally negative reviews from critics; despite receiving some praise for its original premise, the movie was criticized for the generic execution and lack of character development. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a rating of 19%, based on 129 reviews, with an average rating of 4.5/10. The site's consensus reads: "Self/less boasts a potential-packed premise, but does frustratingly little with it, settling for lackluster action at the expense of interesting ideas." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 34 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". In CinemaScore polls, cinema audiences gave Self/less an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale. The IGN review by Josh Lasser awarded it a score of 5.0 out of 10, saying "For someone with great visual command of the medium, Singh's latest is a disappointment."
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