Seven Pounds shoots for profound and poignant, but unfortunately only manages shallow and unaffecting.

It's one of those films that hinges on a huge "surprise" ending that if revealed beforehand, any reason to go see it is removed. But the impact of the shocker is lessened to the point of insignificance because the filmmakers are so afraid of tipping their hand, they litter the proceedings with vague inferences, shadowy jump-cuts and half-explained scenes. All we know for nine-tenths of the film is that Will Smith's character is an IRS agent strangely concerned with the moral qualities of the people he sees. We know he's up to something but we also realize it'll take nearly two hours to find out what it is. As the credits roll, we're left feeling dirty, manipulated, and used by a cheap ploy that some viewers may find offensive and even vile.

Smith is Ben Thomas, a man we surmise is driven by a tragic accident that happened in his past. He's now on a mission to improve the lives of a group of seven complete strangers, but his actions don't really make sense. Real IRS agents tend to avoid emotional sentiment in their daily interactions, and they rarely cut any slack to those who owe money... but not Ben. Additionally, he avoids his brother (Michael Ealy), he dogs a blind call center employee (Woody Harrelson), and inadvertently falls in love with one of his clients, Emily (Rosario Dawson), a woman with a congenital heart defect. Nothing in the film flows together, and Smith slogs through the proceedings with the same zeal as anything put out by Keanu Reeves.

Seven PoundsBut a bigger problem with the film comes from the fact that director Gabriele Muccino (Pursuit of Happyness) and first-time screenwriter Grant Nieporte try too hard to inject compelling character and cinematic beauty into a plot-driven story. Extended scenes, beautifully photographed by Philippe Le Sourd (A Good Year), and dialogue-less moments of pondering and introspection are Muccino's attempt to counter the emptiness of Ben's wounded soul. But instead, the highly stylized look of the film ultimately has little impact and anything that doesn't advance the plot is just merely wasting time.

Whether rebuking illiteracy and laziness in 2006's Pursuit of Happyness, or concocting a potion that can save the population from a world-wide virus outbreak in 2007's I Am Legend, Smith's most effective characters have always shared the common trait of bearing a sense of purpose and ambition. Not here though. Consequently, Smith walks around lost in an emotionless fog of uncertainty and reserve. Most certainly though, he's just sold himself out to the higher vision of a director who has a bit too much reach and not enough grasp. Smith rarely ever misses and I'm certainly not ready to blame this failure on him just yet. He is due credit, however, for trying something new.

Now, back to that ending. It's not so much the meretricious climax itself, as it is the part that leads up to it. The film's message is meant to be important and uplifting... like something that needs to be heard and seriously considered by all. And surely some will find it so. But the constant time shifts and dearth of revealing plot segments don't throw us a big enough bone and never quite add up. As a result, we're left twiddling our thumbs through a mind-numbing second act that is extremely cumbersome and reckless. Seven Pounds feels like some kind of absent-minded hybrid constructed of parts left over from Aranofky's The Fountain, Alan Parker's The Life of David Gale and Ridley Scott's A Good Year. But unfortunately those parts never quite add up.

Component Grades
2 stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
2.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Screen Formats: 2.40:1 (2.40:1)

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; Language and Sound:; English: DTS 5.1 HD; French: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette.


* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with Director Gabriele Muccino.
* Featurettes
o Seven Views on Seven Pounds
o Creating the Perfect Ensemble
o The Box Jellyfish: World's Deadliest Co-Star
o Emily's Passion: The Art Of the Printing Press
* Deleted Scenes

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging