Does Will Smith Think He's Jesus?

Metroland | January 8, 2009
Will Smith is on a one-man quest to save the human race (or at least work on their thetan levels). Just look at his last two films: At the end of I Am Legend, he died so that others could live; in Hancock, he was an immortal superhero. The situation has moved way beyond God complex -- dude thinks he's touched. It's only a matter of time before he signs on to play Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to Seven Pounds, in which Smith -- er, Ben Thomas -- makes the ultimate sacrifice for the good of mankind ... or something like that. The film opens with Ben announcing his suicide to a 911 operator. In flashback we see him antagonizing a blind telemarketer, Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson). He angrily shouts a series of names and throws some furniture. His brother (Michael Ealy) calls, wanting to know if Ben took "something" from his house; Ben responds by saying "I remember giving you something." He meets up with his best friend (Barry Pepper) and they discuss some sort of mysterious plan. He feeds minnows to his pet box jellyfish. (Wait, what?) Oh, the suspense! How will it all add up?

We discover that he's an IRS agent out to "drastically change" circumstances for a few lucky individuals that he deems to be "good" people -- but of course that's not the whole story. Turns out Ben killed seven people, including his fiancée, in an automobile crash (because he was text-messaging while driving!), and he's out to atone for his sins by helping out seven "deserving" people the old-fashioned way: by donating his internal organs. (Or in the case of a domestic-abuse victim, his beach house.) It doesn't get much more Jesus-y than a man ritualistically harvesting his own flesh and shedding his worldly possessions.

The film's ridiculous (and holy-shit pretentious!) conceit is made bearable only by its great lead performances: Smith is exceedingly easy to watch, swinging from bible-salesman charmer to brooding anger-management candidate in a flash. He's come a long, long way since Independence Day. And Rosario Dawson, as heart-transplant candidate/love interest Emily Posa, lights up the screen even when she's half-dead in a hospital bed.

But a few good actors do not a good movie make. Seven Pounds is so pleased with its concept and its message that it drives right by some pretty big flaws. For instance, why is Ben helping seven random people when he could be doing something positive for the families of the people he killed? How is it he gets turned away by a hospital desk clerk for showing up after visiting hours in one scene, and in the next he just waltzes into an intensive-care patient's room unnoticed? How does he manage to walk everywhere if this is supposed to be Southern California? And why doesn't the jellyfish get a screen credit? It has the best role in the film.

By the film's second half, the flashbacks become less mysterious and less necessary, while the message of self-sacrificial redemption grows louder and more obnoxious. Once you've figured out the plot -- which takes about 20 minutes, if even that -- it's hard not to wish that the car crash had been just a little more effective.


Metroland was founded in 1978 as a monthly entertainment guide; a year and a half later it went weekly, continuing to focus primarily on arts, entertainment and lifestyles. In September 1986, Metroland reinvented itself as a full-fledged alternative newsweekly, offering...
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