More noise than signal

Seven Pounds

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

There’s something unlikeable about Seven Pounds, which is also something admirable, in a funny way. Reuniting much of the team behind The Pursuit of Happyness to cover feature newcomer Grant Nieporte’s script, I rather get the feeling it’s intended as a film to be regarded at arm’s length rather than embraced, which, good or bad, is at least different.

It’s also something of a mystery script, so talking about it in ways that won’t spoil it, in at least some small way, is a little difficult. Consider that a warning. Ben Thomas (The Fresh Prince of Will Smith) is an IRS agent that, from the outset, is plainly Troubled with the sort of Troubles that demand capitalisation. Not that I intend to imply any link with Nothern Irish terrorism. He appears to be having wild mood swings, he’s erratic, he’s unlikeable, he’s up to something.

Plainly, this is a character with one of them there dark secrets in his past. The mystery, which will remain mysterious either really briefly or until pretty much the end depending largely on how much of this sort of thing you’ve been exposed to in the past, revolves entirely on what this event that’s had such an effect on Ben’s life is.

The other main strand in this film is the growing relationship between Ben and the critically ill, heart-transplant needin’ Emily (Rosario Dawson), who seems to be the key to bringing Ben back from the warm embrace of self loathing into the manifold horrors of reality again, although there’s more than just Emily’s health hanging over proceedings.

The above is not a terribly complete picture of what Seven Pounds brings to the table, but it’s about as much depth as I’d want to go into lest the Spoiler Brigade charge me down.

For quite a lot of the time I was sat down in front of Seven Pounds, I was coming up with the opinion that it existed only as an excuse for Will Smith to flex his acting muscles, as though we had forgotten somehow that he’s not one of the best actors working today. Given Hancock and I Am Legend, I guess I can see his point, but if it’s not required on that level, what else does it have?

Well, it’s not just Smith who can act, with Dawson matching his quality and producing a warm and believable chemistry as the film heads off towards its conclusion. It’s as part of this that Smith’s character eventually becomes understandable and sympathetic although there’s a slight problem with this structure.

For the first half hour of the film, Ben is an arsehole. A well played arsehole, and in retrospect an entirely understandable arsehole, but an arsehole nonetheless. So, Seven Pounds‘ first act is designed to push you away from it, which is admirable in a way, but dangerous in many more ways. It’s hitched entirely in Smith being able to intrigue the viewer to go along with the ride to work out why he acts this in this way, and in less talented hands it would have utterly fallen apart before it could get started. That’s to the credit of all concerned, I suppose.

It’s still more admirable than enjoyable, though. If you can shake the impression that this exists largely to show off Smith’s acting chops (and even then, that’s hardly a bad thing), then I sure this will be an interesting trek through the dark side of a reasonably complex character and his acceptance of himself. It may even be only me who’s so afflicted with this strange niggling doubt about the endeavour.

There’s certainly very little else wrong with it. It’s well paced, with glimpses of what’s troubled Ben so dealt out sparingly enough to keep most wondering, I think. By the end it’s fairly heartwarming, in a strange mix of melancholy and saccharine sort of way. I can’t think of much wrong with it, to be honest, but at the same time I didn’t find myself enjoying it very much. I never really bought into Ben’s character in any emotional way, and having worked out / guessed early on the gist of what happened to Ben I didn’t have any intrigue to string me along. I accept I may be an edge case on this one, but I just can’t bring myself to say I found Seven Pounds all that remarkable or, well, good.