Imagine Donald Trump wanted to reboot his disastrous presidential campaign announcement month to start over as a younger man with real hair. In Tarsem Singh's Self/less, Trump could hire the medical geniuses of Phoenix Biogenic to transfer his aging brain into a strapping hot bod for $250 million -- the price of lab-grown "genetically engineered perfection," purrs founder Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode).
Here, our monstrous real-estate mogul is Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley), a tycoon so obsessed with ostentatious wealth that his Central Park penthouse has gold-plated martini shakers. Kingsley plays Damian as straight-backed and cruel as a spike. But he's such a good actor he practically sabotages the film. Before exiting fifteen minutes in, he infuses Damian with gravitas, empathy, intelligence, mercilessness, and ambition. Damian 2.0 (Ryan Reynolds) is just a nice dude who can't wait to get laid.
Reynolds has done body-swap movies before -- but Singh seems to have forgotten to tell him what to mimic. Still, Reynolds is well cast to play an old man embedded in a hunk. In most of his films, Reynolds wears his own body as a joke. He gets a few scenes of puppyish physical exaltation, a few decent gags as his inner geezer tries to act cool. But then brothers Alex and David Pastor's script tries to get smart, and winds up getting really, really dumb. Self/less pretends that a billionaire Scrooge who's already abandoned his own family would risk everything to save a stranger's. And, dumber still, that a ruthless, well-connected genius can think of no better revenge than grabbing a gun. As the body count rises, you could argue he was a better man before his social awakening.