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Seven Pounds

Seven Pounds

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary, deleted scenes and featurettes.

WILL Smith is an extraordinary superstar. Equally at home in a crowd-pleasing blockbuster as he is in a heavyweight awards contender, or art-house orientated thinking man’s drama he is the consummate entertainer.

And while the subject matter or direction of his films may not always match the quality of his performances, Smith always brings something that makes them worth watching.

In last year’s I Am Legend, for instance, he carried a whole movie virtually single-handedly and was only really let down by a badly handled climax, while in summer hit Hancock, his undoubted charisma and comic timing helped to paper over some of the more obvious cracksin the superhero drama.

In Seven Pounds, which reunites him with The Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino, he again elevates the standard in an otherwise deeply flawed tale.

Ben Thomas (Smith) is a man living on the edge. Distraught by the repercussions of a tragedy he feels responsible for, he has hatched a plan to make the lives of seven strangers special in some way. In doing so, he falls hopelessly in love with a beautiful woman (Rosario Dawson), whose own existence may be limited by her need for a life-saving operation.

Muccino’s film works best when operating in the dark. It begins with Smith’s central character making a phone call to report his own impending suicide and then proceeds to recall the story of how he got to that point. And for long periods, the journey – while slow and methodical – is an enjoyable one to take, as we’re invited to piece together the puzzle of Thomas’ life, and his grand plan for finding personal redemption.

Smith’s Thomas is an enigmatic presence – a man we can never quite get a handle on; fierce with rage one minute, desperate and heartbroken the next, or enveloped in human kindness as he seeks to influence the lives of the people he has chosen to make special. Smith is brilliant in all guises, and benefits from strong support from Dawson, excellent as the love interest, and Barry Pepper, as a loyal (if under-used) best friend.

Muccino, for his part, employs a fractured narrative so that we’re not always sure what is past and what is present, and almost constantly intrigued and gripped. But Seven Pounds begins to fall apart once the reveal kicks in.

Without giving it away, Thomas’ motivations may infuriate more people than they ultimately impress, while the decision to overdose on the sentiment also feels misguided on Muccino’s part, thereby depriving both Smith and his audience of the lasting emotional impression they were undoubtedly hoping for. As is so often the case in Hollywood movies, the journey is much more enjoyable than the destination itself, especially so with Smith as your guide.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 104mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 25, 2009