A melancholic story that doesn’t seem to know how to be a film. Never, in fact, has so long a screen time been taken to say so little.
“Seven Pounds” is a mournful, unmoving movie which does indeed have a plot but which also does indeed flop almost totally for lack of emotional draw. In a word, it’s just plain uninteresting. Royally so. Its dramatic devices are not only as old as the hills but it seems to be ashamed of exploiting their potential. We do sense that there is probably going to be a twist at the end — and there is — but we are also struck by the stark fact that very little emotionally or physically is going to happen before then.
The romance element, such as it is, is painfully unoriginal and, worse, drags itself out as though it were something new and stimulating.
In this would-be probing emotional story, an IRS agent, crushed by his own personal life’s grief, is about to make stark changes in the lives of seven strangers. Ben Thomas (Will Smith), we gather, has done something terrible involving his wife, now gone. We won’t know of this till the end. Actually, in the very opening, we’ve already seen him fully dressed in a bathtub as he morosely dials 911 and explains that he’s reporting a suicide. “Who is the victim?” inquires the police agent. “I am,” is the reply.
Now to flashback. His torment is obvious as he investigates some cases. It’ll take most of the movie before we understand what’s eating him up, making him so dangerous to himself and to others.
He’s erratic, this guy. When a nursing home supervisor, whom Ben is investigating, refuses to let an old lady take her bath, Ben beats up on him. He’s also pretty cruel to a blind pianist (Woody Harrelson) on the phone. Then he follows this fellow (Woody Harrelson) into a restaurant and chats a bit with him. There will be other cases in his IRS duties. And an element of curiosity has been entered regarding his brother who claims, cryptically, that he, Ben, has something of his that he’d like returned.
And then Ben checks into a scummy hotel.
One very momentous case he’s checking out is with the lovely Emily (Rosario Dawson) who not only has a fatal heart condition but is behind in her tax payments. Feelings begin rising within Ben, powerful feelings. He is falling in love with her. This will complicate his own tendency toward self-destruction.
A pretty good twist at the end and a heart-rending irony work at redeeming this dull, drawn-out movie, but can’t make it. Will Smith doubtlessly expected a lot more out of this film, notching up his acting career. It doesn’t hurt him, but doesn’t help either.
“Seven Pounds” (quality rating: 5 0ut of 10)
Director: Gabriel Muccino
Screenplay: Grant Nieporte
Cast: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Robinne Lee
Time: 2 hrs., 3 min.
Rating: PG-13 (disturbing thematic material, one sensual scene)