Sony // 2008 // 123 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // March 25th, 2009
Seven names. Seven strangers. One secret.
"Just remember that I love you."
Ben Thomas (Will Smith, Men in Black) works for the Internal Revenue Service. He's that guy that everybody hates: the auditor. However, he's going about his job a little differently these days. For some mysterious reason, he is seeking out troubled taxpayers and attempting to do what he can to lend them a hand. Among those on the receiving end of Ben's kindness are: a kind woman with a heart condition named Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson, Sin City), a blind man telephone operator named Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson, Natural Born Killers), a woman named Connie Tepos (Elpidia Carrillo, Tortilla Heaven) who is suffering terribly at the hands of her violent and savage boyfriend, and several others. Why does Ben feel such a passionate need to help these people, and what is the dark secret hiding in his past?
The less you know about Seven Pounds, the better. When I first saw the theatrical trailer for the film, I was subjected to a lot of sentimental images without any context whatsoever. I had no idea what the film was supposed to be about, but I knew that it didn't quite look like my cup of tea. Numerous reviews vaguely suggesting that Seven Pounds was one of the worst films of recent years more or less ensured that I would stay away from the theatre. I'm glad I finally got a chance to catch the film, though. This is not a film for everyone, and some viewers will be justifiably appalled by it's extraordinarily melodramatic conclusion. The intellectual view suggests that the film should be punished for daring to subject viewers to something so preposterous and out-of-left-field. It would not be honest for me to do so. Plenty of logical arguments can be made against Seven Pounds, but the truth of the matter is that I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I found the film to be a very absorbing, interesting viewing experience, and I'm happy to have seen it.
Star Will Smith and director Gabriele Muccino previously collaborated on the much-lauded The Pursuit of Happyness, a film I didn't much care for due to it's tonal inconsistencies. Both have raised their game a little bit here, creating a very consistent mood of mystery and gloom that helps temper the many sentimental elements in the film. Smith's performance is intriguing, and contrasts sharply with many of his previous acting turns. Traditionally, Smith is an actor who shows all of his cards early on. That's not an insult to his talent by any means, but simply a suggestion that most of his characters are reasonably easy to size up rather quickly. Here, Smith slowly deals out bits and pieces, as we wonder to ourselves, "What's this guy all about?" At first he seems depressed and troubled, and then he seems reserved, but then we see him smiling at something, and we attempt to determine how the pieces fit. The cover photo of Smith on this Blu-ray package is an appropriate one, offering an appropriately enigmatic facial expression.
Muccino chooses to tell the story in a non-linear fashion, offering frequent flashbacks throughout. He asks the viewer to pay close attention, refusing to provide subtitles that indicate when we are in the past and when we are in the present. It becomes obvious enough; you just have to keep your eyes open. There are deeply heartfelt moments here, and Muccino deals them out slowly and carefully. It would be very easy for a film like this one to become buried in a pile of tearful sentiment. Some critics feel that it has done precisely that. I don't think so. There is a genuine effort being made to show some restraint here, and I have to admire it. More than anything, I like the way that the film refuses to reveal much of anything about what the whole thing is about until the end. Not many mainstream movies could get away with that, but this one uses the ever-bankable star power of Will Smith to it's advantage as often as possible.
The hi-def transfer here is pretty solid, even if this isn't exactly a showcase disc. Blacks are rich and deep throughout, and the level of background and facial detail very impressive throughout. Flesh tones do seem slightly off from time to time, and the image was a bit grainier than usual for a new release like this one. The audio is very subdued throughout the film, though I will say that the blend of songs and score throughout works surprisingly well. Muccino makes one of the best musical choices I have heard in quite a while by using a simple yet sublime selection from Ennio Morricone's The Legend of 1900 to underscore a pair of very important scenes within the film. Just brilliant. Anyway, this is an effective yet gentle track that tries not to draw too much attention to itself. I did note a small bit of distortion during a couple of louder dialogue scenes.
The biggest extra on the disc is an audio commentary from Muccino, who actually proves to be rather dull when it comes to this sort of thing. The track is filled with gaps, and doesn't really offer much insight regarding the film. It's quite uninteresting, and I'll be surprised if many people actually manage to sit through the entire track. A bit better is the featurette "Seven Views on Seven Pounds," which grants a few minutes to seven filmmakers (the composer, writer, director, producers, location manager, designer, and editor). An interesting approach to this sort of thing. Another featurette called "Creating the Perfect Ensemble" gives Smith, Harrelson, and Dawson a chance to offer their thoughts. "The Box Jellyfish: The World's Deadliest Co-Star" is a throwaway featurette about a certain sea creature, while "Emily's Passion: The Art of the Printing Press" is an equally disposable look at the lost art of printing. Finally, a handful of deleted scenes offer nothing terribly important, and the disc is BD-Live enabled. A digital copy of the film has also been included, for all of you heathens who like watching films on your i-Phone (keep it up, and I'll sick David Lynch on you).
The conclusion of the film manages to answer most of the questions, but there are a few logical issues that are left unresolved. Due to the nature of the film, I can't mention these questions without potentially spoiling things, but you'll probably get what I'm talking about after you see it. Additionally, talented co-stars Barry Pepper and Woody Harrelson are tragically short-changed here, barely being given enough screen time to make an impression. Pepper in particular is far too skilled to be playing the sort of throwaway role he is given. At least Harrelson got one or two good scenes. I also wonder whether the movie doesn't take a little too much time tying up loose ends. I would have preferred a cleaner cut.
Seven Pounds is a good film, and it receives a perfectly acceptable Blu-ray release. Spit on it all you like, but I have to applaud the ambition being displayed here.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Digital Copy