SELF/LESS REVIEW

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Pace less BUT for all the negative press, I still found this quite watchable.

A dying real estate mogul (Sir Ben Kingsley) transfers his consciousness into a healthy young body (Ryan Reynolds), but soon finds that neither the procedure nor the company that performed it are quite what they seem.

It may have been cliched, plot hole ridden and a little patchy in places BUT the action sequences were fast, fierce, racy and Reynolds was on fine form. AND for a good portion of the film, I was entertained.

The opening act was slow burning but intriguing. A slick and ruthless Kingsley delivering DeNiroesque gravitas to the role of the ailing billionaire. To be honest, I would have been happy to watch his normal life as the dying mogul. His lesson with a young rival was compelling stuff.

BUT the sloppily put together relationship with his estranged daughter? Not so much. It’s great to see Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery popping up in more movies. But not in such weak supporting roles. Dull, cliched and boring. A waste. And a pointless character by the closing credits.

We follow Kingsley wallowing in his highly extravagant and isolated apartment as he must come to terms with his own mortality. The one thing in all his years he hasn’t been able to conquer. Until now.

Cue the slick but incredibly smarmy scientist Dr Albright. Matthew Goode was brilliant as the mysterious mastermind. The concept of body swapping/mind swapping was quite interesting. Can you put on a price on life? Would you do it?

BUT we know he does. Or else there wouldn’t be a movie. Tragically that means there is one massive Kingsley-sized void when the deed is done. BUT have no fear. Reynolds is here. He played the role quite well. Good to see him doing it seriously. The guy can be hilarious but I’m fed up of the fast talking douche.

The premise was handled with the right balance. A slight hint of believability. Or enough to make you buy into it. It was a nice touch seeing Reynolds in the early stages of his ‘infancy’ as he must learn to walk again.

It did require a little patience. You get the sense of his struggle within two minutes not twenty. BUT it did make a change to see him having to adjust and look like he’s actually gone through an experiment. Unlike Face/Off. Quick laser zap here and voice alter there. Done. (I love Face/Off. Man, I want to watch that right now. Anyway . . . )

I loved the one liners, “It still has that new body smell”. Cheesy but it did the job. Of course, once Reynolds has adjusted; he does what any elderly billionaire would do with a shed load of cash and Ryan Reynolds’ body! Get smashed, drive fast cars, get jiggy with the ladies and play basketball.

It chugged along. BUT it did lull. Luckily, not everything is as it seems. Strange fits and random memories of someone else’s life start plaguing the mind of our playboy. And thankfully, the film finds it’s stride . . . in places.

Damian soon realises that the “vessel” may not be all it cracked up to be. It’s all rather predictable as he asks too many questions and threatens to reveal the organisation to the public after discovering he has taken someone away from their family.

Cue an action packed race (Hmm) as Damian must fight to save his life and whoever the hell he has in his mind and his family.

Natalie Martinez (Under The Dome) did what she could with the role as the confused wife. BUT she was too whiney and mopey. The scenes with her and Reynolds were way too cliched for you to really care. It didn’t help that she kept asking the same monotonous questions. After Damian clearly says repeatedly, “I have no idea”.

Empire’s Derek Luke didn’t do a bad job as Anton. I just wish his henchman wasn’t so bland and unintentionally comical. Once the body/mind swapping ploy is introduced, he keeps popping up as a new face in every scene. It should have been sinister but it just showed how easy he is to dispose of. Wiped out every time he clashes with Reynolds. Oh dear.

Oh yeah. I forgot to say. Lucky for Damian that he’s managed to take the body of a highly trained marine whose skills conveniently kick in every time danger is afoot. The action scenes were quick, furious and quite violent. Apart from the bad body double punch up in the kitchen, I was impressed.

It was the much needed catalyst to get this film going. And it picked the film up every time the corny story line or pace seemed to linger. The final 20 minutes were actually quite good.

It was certainly watchable as Damian has to make a choice. To save this family and the mind of the body he took or . . . NOT. There was a good portion in which I thought things would take a darker turn as he tries his utmost not to help. BUT the end result was tragically predictable.

Matthew Goode was a dastardly villain. BUT he took the back seat for too much of the film. Only reappearing for the finale. A waste of a good character. And for all his secrecy, he was picked apart quite easily.

Things did get unbelievably corny in parts and killed the little tension that the film could muster. There was one scene. Hardly spoilerific. BUT while in hiding, the adorable Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen asks the man possessing her daddy’s body to teach her to swim. Wow. What do you know? There’s a pool round the back. And they must have remembered to pack her little bathing suit while being shot at. Delightful.

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Victor Garber was fantastic as Kingsley’s closest friend and business partner. His likeable supporting character actually gets a little subplot. Well, minuscule. BUT it only manages to pierce more holes in the flimsy plot as a “revelatory twist” ended up asking more questions than answering them.

Now did anyone else this but after seeing all the posters that maybe Kingsley would reappear in some other capacity? I thought that every time Reynolds would look in the mirror, he would see Kingsley. Or better yet have Kingsley talk to him. BUT NO! Missed a trick there. Gutted.

Watchable enough. Helped by a charismatic lead in Reynolds. Good action set pieces. BUT too many cliches and a questionable two hour running length spoil something that could have been so much more.

2.5/5

GRUDGE MATCH REVIEW

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The Raging Bull vs. The Italian Stallion. Better late than never?

A pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout . . . 30 years after their last match.

Two of the greatest boxing movie icons finally come face to face. In the red corner, two-time Oscar winner and mafia kingpin Robert “Jake La Motta” De Niro. In the blue corner, two-time Oscar nominee and action movie macho man, Sylvester “Rocky Balboa” Stallone. Did we get a tense ten round punch up? Or was it another hyped up dud with a shoddy KO in the first round? LET’S GET READDDDDYYYY TO REVIEEWWWWW.

Watchable if a little disappointing. De Niro and Stallone made a frankly dull, predictable and by the book boxing dramedy a lot more entertaining than it should have been. 

The opening sequence (delivered in a flashy sports feed) quickly established the pair’s rivalry. The CGI and make up actually made the leading men look like they did in the 70s. The quick 30 second boxing skits were quite convincing. We watch Henry “Razor” Sharp (the not so sharp Stallone) battling it with his greatest nemesis, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro), both one a piece in their victories, with one final grudge match on the cards. BUT out of nowhere, Razor retires. 

30 years later and Razor (a hench looking Stallone) is still happy to forget and work at the local steel mill. While Kid (an overweight De Niro) is still living off the fame BUT unhappy about the match that never was. He may still be a unit BUT Stallone hasn’t aged well. However, he delivered some of the best acting I’ve seen him do in some time. While De Niro played the arrogant Billy with aplomb.

An unexpected reunion at a video game commercial shoot set fists flying between the retired boxers. It was hilarious watching the pair flail about like two wrinkly Buzz Lightyears in those ridiculous green suits. Inevitably, the spat goes viral and the grudge match is very much back on.

De Niro and Stallone sparred well off each other. The insults and jibes were snappy and quick witted. It wasn’t long before we discover the real reason behind their rivalry. What could possibly put two men against each other? Bingo, a woman. In the form of the lovely Kim Basinger, who still ain’t looking too bad. What? She had good chemistry with Stallone and made the cliched cheesy romance subplot a little more bearable.

The grudge match opened opportunities for the old codgers. For the Kid? A chance to appease his ego. For the Razor? Money to help take care of his old trainer. The scene stealing Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine). And once Kevin Hart was thrown into the mix, the lumbering pace picked up. I never thought Arkin and Hart would make such an entertaining duo.

For all the negative press, I expected something worse. Grudge Match was hardly original. The pace was patchy and the cliched schmaltzy guff was a little predictable BUT it was still easygoing enough and delivered the odd chuckle. Stallone’s training montage was brilliant. A perfect Rocky parody by the man himself. Struggling to drink eggs and wondering why the hell he’s punching meat in a freezer.

The fight scenes weren’t bad BUT I was left wanting by the finale. It was all build up with some promising sequences as the old boys gave it a good ol’ go. BUT it was rushed and quick cut. Whether that was to make up for the ailing actors? I’m not sure. Shame. The tone was all over the pace. The video game scrap. Good. Fighting while skydiving? OTT and stupid. The subplot involving Billy’s newly discovered son (Jon Bernthal – The Walking Dead) was wafer thin and dreadfully cliched.

A mixed bag. Easygoing enough BUT if you were expecting Motta v Balboa, you’ll be left disappointed but give ’em a break. They do their best with the material. It’s just a shame that the material was a little weak. For the boxing nuts, hang on for the credits if you want to see a proper boxing rivalry revisited.

2.5/5