Will Smith has had an illustrious career in Hollywood, raising from the ranks of American television. The most remembered of course being The Fresh Prince of Bell Air, he went on to star in some of the major blockbusters of the 1990s. Although he comes across as the one dimensional toothy grin amiable guy, he has tried his hand at a couple of things which have tested his metal somewhat. Ali of course being at the top of that list where he did in fact produce an excellent performance.
The test of any good actor in my eyes is the range which they can command, the roles that they undertake, the parts they can play which are outside their normal comfort zone. Some of the best actors of our time have shown this with, in my opinion, De Nero being perhaps top of the list (after all who else could have played that anarchic plumber in Brazil ) ? So I was quite glad when Will Smith put his hand to something other than the usual blockbuster material; one of his most recent, Hancock, whilst being being an excellent basis for a superhero story never really produced the goods it could have done. Then on the back of The Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino, teamed up with Smith again to bring us Seven Pounds.
Shrouded in some cloud of mystery in the run up to its release with the trailers not giving anything away, you never really knew what was about to happen. The editors blew it though, the opening scene whilst not really giving the game away per-se left little room for the film to expand and develop. Whilst this technique has been used to good effect before, say on D.O.A., it really doesn't work here and should have been edited out from the get go.
Anyway we have jellyfish lover Ben Thomas (Will Smith) playing the role of a tax inspector for the US IRS service, investigating some unconnected revenue cases. He visits the clients, essentially judges them to be a good or bad person then makes his final decision based on their personality. A new way of working perhaps for the IRS? Ben eventually comes across Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) a self employed printer; she's down on her luck, owes the revenue tens of thousands pounds and has a congenital heart defect which means her life is somewhat limited. Unless she receives a heart transplant within a short space of time her back taxes would be the least of her problems.
Ben, whose history is only revealed to us in brief flashbacks, seems to become attached to Emily, and helps her above and beyond the call of the IRS' duty. Yet through all of this you know he's holding something back, you know he's not telling the whole truth. All you can do is enjoy the ride and find out once and for all why Ben is not only helping Emily but also a number of
other people who find their fortunes intermingled with him.
As I say initially the film is ruined a little by the start, you know exactly what is about to happen and any tension near the end as Ben's relationship with Emily evolves is nullified because you know this will have no happy ending. Because of the opening of the movie you know where Ben is heading and because of this very fact the relationship he develops with Emily has no meaning whatsoever, you know the ultimate outcome... there is no possibility that he might change his mind. It is because of this that the opening scenes do not add to this film at all, they merely detract from it.
The film rests on finding out why Ben is changing these people's lives for the better, and even though Ben's history is shown in the odd flashback it does become apparent pretty early on as to what his ultimate aim is. There is a sting in the tail towards the end involving his brother but apart from that the film progresses from A to B to C quite easily and without any real drama or question as to the people's motives; from that point of view the film is too easy to watch, perhaps indeed a little too easy.
The relationship Ben instigates and continues with Emily is a little off kilter as well. Knowing Ben's history and now knowing what his plans are, the relationship itself makes little sense. If he is to embark on his ultimate venture then it is indeed doubtful if he would ever have become involved with Emily to the degree which he does. His character just would not have gone so far, and the writers should have looked into this a little more deeply.
Sundry characters are interesting enough, from the hospital administrator to the hockey coach, all have their little story to be told and all have some connection with Ben to some degree or other. Woody Harrelson pops up again in a role you wouldn't immediately consider to be one of his. He's there at the start then you don't see him until near the end when he pops back in for one last scene bringing to a close the journey that Ben has been undertaking. Everyone plays their part well enough and I was impressed, to a degree, with Will Smith's performance, especially towards the end. Throughout he carries around his lonely secret whilst playing and enhancing people's lives and during the scenes involving these other people he does play the grinning amiable guy we have always known him to be; however towards the end, as his own journey comes to a close, he has a depth in his acting that has only ever been eclipsed by his performance in Ali.
Ultimately then Seven Pounds telegraphs its intent, the relationships at times do not quite make sense, with the main relationship between Ben and Emily a little too sugary sweet at times. In saying that none the less I actually quite enjoyed the film for what it was. I doubt I would recommend adding this as a permanent addition to your growing Blu-ray collection but I still do feel it's worth a watch on a Saturday night. It's not going to strain any brain cells, but at times it does have a good performance from Smith. The end though leaves you with a little inner glow in a very kitschy sort of way.
A guilty pleasure then of sorts and one that I probably will go back to at some point and re-watch. Rent it and enjoy it for what it is and ignore some of the major faults it most certainly contains. A little too fluffy at times and perhaps should rate a 6, but as I say I enjoyed it and that counts somewhat so I'll opt for the the numeric in the title and give it a seven.
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