MRR Movie Review: Seven Pounds


Movie Review: "Seven Pounds"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 123 minutes
Release Date: December 19, 2008
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
Genre: Drama
Cast: Full Cast and Crew

"Seven Pounds" is the second film directed by Gabriele Muccino to star actor Will Smith. Like the film "The Pursuit of Happyness," this movie is a somber story starring Smith as Ben Thomas, a man trying to redeem himself for his self-perceived sins. The movie follows an unconventional path, giving off a directionless feel designed to throw the viewer off until the surprise conclusion. The result is a decent film that actually gets better with subsequent viewings.

The plot of the film revolves around Ben, an IRS agent who claims to be following seven disabled individuals due to their tax returns. Two of them, the blind man Ezra (Woody Harrelson) and a woman with a heart condition named Emily (Rosario Dawson), become the focal point of Ben's attention. After spending some time with Emily, the two begin to fall for each other, complicating Ben's ultimate plan. Through it all, Ben spends some time in a rundown hotel with his pet jellyfish while occasionally having flashbacks to a horrible car accident involving him and seven other people.

The title stems from a plot point in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," where a man must pay a pound of flesh for his debt. Here, it's Smith's Ben who must pay for his perceived debt to seven unknown individuals. As he sets out to redeem himself for his mistakes, he takes the viewers on a ride without a clear destination. Since "Seven Pounds" doesn't show off its intentions in the first act, it takes you on a different type of cinematic journey where the revelations at the end change the meanings of the start of the film.

Smith, whose onscreen personality is usually over the top and gregarious, dials it back here. Just as he did in "The Pursuit of Happyness," Smith explores the dark side of his persona, delving deeper into the complexities of depression, survivor's guilt, and regret. He throws himself into the role, forcing the audience to forget the Smith they know from films like "Men in Black" or "Bad Boys." It's an effective performance, one that matches up with his turn as Muhammad Ali in Michael Mann's "Ali."

It's not just Smith who has the chance to shine in "Seven Pounds." Woody Harrelson continues to prove that he's one of the most interesting actors working today with his turn as the blind Ezra. Character actor Barry Pepper shows up as Dan, a man who is trying to talk some sense into his best friend Ben. Pepper's role is intriguing, providing the audience with someone who is unsure about Ben's ideas. Meanwhile, Rosario Dawson's role as Emily is the soul of the film. Her need for a heart transplant and Ben's reaction to it is the most heart-wrenching storyline in the film. It's this plot line that leads to the revelation of Ben's purpose and identity. Without delving too much into what this plot twist is, it is sure to have you reaching for a tissue.

While Muccino's film is effective, it doesn't quite reach the heights of his masterpiece, the original version of "The Last Kiss." Still, he once again manages to bring out a strong performance from Smith, one that matches the film's unique structure. As seen in several of his other movies, Muccino delves into the intricacies of human behavior, highlighting those with a perceived defect and how they go about their day. As the character of Ben meets each of these individuals, Muccino goes out of his way to focus on how these people deal with the aftermath of their illnesses or disabilities. In stark contrast, Ben can't seem to let go of his own issues, causing his life to take a dramatic turn. The film's bold structure keeps Ben's issues hidden for some time, making this a film that may not be for everyone but is something that is worth taking in for those looking for a type of film that doesn't lay all of its cards down immediately.

Ultimately, "Seven Pounds" is a film about redemption that works. With Smith's performance, the intriguing plot, and the strong supporting cast, this is the perfect film for those looking for something unique on a Saturday night. It does take dark turns, but its ultimate message is a positive one. Hopefully, Muccino and Smith will continue to make films together, since their track record so far shows they bring out the best in each other.

Rating: 4 out of 5