I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Seven Pounds

Seven strangers. One man connects them. Or some stupid bullshit like that, is what the commercials said. They had a hard time explaining what the hell this movie was supposed to be about, and didn’t make me curious to find out. That is, until somebody gave away the ending.

I’m gonna go ahead and make you have to highlight this one, because it’s at the end of the movie, it’s a pretty huge spoiler. But if you have no interest in the movie yet you can go ahead and highlight this to see what it was I heard Will Smith’s character does at the end:

Suicide by jellyfish. No shit! When you hear a movie includes suicide by jellyfish what choice do you have but to give it a shot? That shoulda been the main focus of the advertising. In fact that should’ve been the title: SUICIDE BY JELLYFISH.

Whether or not you go in knowing the ending like I did, you’re pretty much just thrown in there without an explanation of what’s going on, and it takes its sweet time getting to solid ground where you feel like you’ve got your footing in the story. Smith is on the phone with a blind meat salesman (Woody Harrelson) chewing him out for no good reason, trying to pick a fight with him. Why is Will Smith being such an asshole? And what is he babbling about when he gets off the phone? He starts yelling out a list of names and knocking over furniture. The guy is obviously traumatized.

Seven PoundsWe see some glimpses of his past. He had a wife or girlfriend, apparently not with him anymore. He was rich, now he’s in a dingy hotel. He was the head of an astronautics corporation. Now he’s going around saying he’s an IRS agent, talking to various people in debt because of health problems, butting into their lives.

Honestly I went in thinking this movie was gonna be Nic-Cage-ludicrous and I was gonna get some laughs out of it, but it quickly defeated me. Even though I had heard pretty much what he was gonna be up to, all this careful of withholding of information was successful at creeping me out. Is he really an IRS agent now, or is he making this shit up? He seems like he’s stalking these people. You and I both know Will Smith is not playing a crazy stalker, he’s obviously gonna try to help these people. But then he’s telling Rosario Dawson that he’s cutting her a break on the money she owes to the government, and we suspect he doesn’t really have a say in that. What is the dude up to?

And he seems so miserable. He’s going around doing these incredibly nice things for strangers but then all the sudden he’ll turn harsh and upset them. He might turn out to be some kind of angel or some shit, but not the cuddly kind.

You ever been to a movie where some annoying person keeps asking their boyfriend or girlfriend questions the movie purposely hasn’t answered yet: why is he doing that? Where is he going? What is he trying to do? And you want to tell them for God’s sake, it will answer the question when it’s time to answer it, your boyfriend doesn’t know either because he is not in the future, he’s watching at the same time you are, and to be honest we’re mad at him for not telling you to shut your dumb mouth? Well this would be the all time worst movie to see with one of those people in the theater. And I guarantee you it happened somewhere. Anybody out there who suffered through that, I feel for you.

It’s an unusual movie and a real ballsy one for somebody like Smith to make. While it gets most of its mileage from making you wait to find out what exactly he’s up to it also takes a left turn and becomes a love story with Rosario Dawson, who has a good chemistry with Smith and seems genuinely charmed by him. He falls in love with this girl who’s fighting to live past her life expectancy, and if she does she wants to be with him. But she doesn’t know that he’s been hinting he’s gonna die and that he gave away his house to a stranger. This could get ugly.

It’s the same guy who did THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, and it’s similarly well directed. That one was a very effective crowdpleaser type movie but I still had that nagging feeling that it was bullshit, telling us that a dude should raise his kid in a subway bathroom so he can have a shot at becoming a millionaire investment banker. SEVEN POUNDS has more selfless motives than that. The cynic in me still felt like kind of a chump getting choked up for the love story, but then it really got me with the last scene. And this is a bigger spoiler than the last one:

Smith has sacrificed himself to save Rosario from her heart condition. She has his heart now and she’s recovered nicely. Some time later she comes to some kind of a children’s music recital. Woody Harrelson is the teacher. We have long since figured out that Will was gonna donate his eyes so Woody could see again. But what I didn’t see coming was Rosario walking up to him and staring lovingly into his eyes… Will Smith’s eyes, transplanted into Woody’s head.

That last scene is such a weird combination of romantic, tragic, and disgusting. I’ve never seen anything like it. If you ask me that’s a brilliant ending. Never occurred to me I’d see something like that. I’m sure many people will laugh this one off like I expected to, but it worked for me.

And here’s something stupid to think about: SEVEN POUNDS is the anti-SAW. SAW is about a brilliant engineer who feels he got fucked over, so he tries to get his revenge on humanity. SEVEN POUNDS is about a brilliant engineer who knows he fucked up, so he tries to redeem himself by helping humanity. The guy in SAW concocts elaborate schemes to prove people are immoral so he can kill them, the guy in SEVEN POUNDS concocts elaborate schemes to prove people’s morality so he can reward them. In SAW they get tortured by convoluted Rube Goldberg type machines, in SEVEN POUNDS he pulls a maneuver like that on himself. In the SAW movies he’s dying of cancer and can’t stop it, in SEVEN POUNDS he ought to live but wants to kill himself. The guy in SAW is a real prick who thinks he’s better than everybody else, the guy in SEVEN POUNDS is a charmer who hates himself. And I’m sure one of the SAW movies must’ve had some reference to “seven pounds of flesh,” but I can’t remember for sure. Plus they both start with the letter ‘S’.

I guess we’ll just have to see if they put out a SEVEN POUNDS movie once a year for the next half a decade, but so far I like this series better than SAW.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 11:24 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Seven Pounds”

  1. Dammit, Vern, I watched this on your say-so because I wanted to see Will Smith put his head in a noose made of piano wire and stand on a giant ice block on top of a gas grill. (I didn’t read the spoiler because I am not in inhuman monster.) Not because I have anything against Will Smith, but because how am I not gonna want to see that? Instead I get all choked up and shit by a sweet love story and a tragic hero. I did not expect to get blindsided like that. I am definitely looking forward to Eight Pounds with Michael Jai White. Maybe he’ll be a kickboxer who accidentally killed a guy in the ring and donates his arms and legs to needy martial artists to redeem himself. Then they go bust out some POWs or something, I don’t know.

  2. I think it is very brave of Michael Jai White to take a role like that, where it is only 98% kickboxing and the rest is pure drama.

  3. This comment is very late, but I pretty much felt exactly the same way about this movie, and your Saw comparison is quite brilliant.

  4. Well, this is weird. I stumbled on this review because it was linked in another one I was reading and I wanted to relive what I remembered as this film’s hilarious awfulness. Then I read my comment and it turns out I liked the movie. This is very disconcerting. How many of my opinions are actually lies my brain has told me?

  5. I think you’ll find that all we’re all mad here…

    Memories are just more elaborate lies we tell ourselves to try and cope with the now. I learned this hard way after recommending RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II to people for years and years and then when I finally re-watched it (the day it came out on DVD) come to find out it was absolutely terrible. I could never trust myself again.

  6. Maj, memory is an interesting topic. I read a book called Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me. It’s about how human beings create memories so strong that even facts can’t change the memory they know in their gut they experienced. This ranges from things as simple as remembering a father reading a bedtime story that was not published until after their death, to one case where someone convinced themselves they had survived the Holocaust because that’s how badly they needed to have overcome something.

    Of course, remembering whether or not you liked a movie is rather insignificant. It gets sticky when we have people in charge saying “I never said climate change was a hoax” and you have it in writing or video that they said it, but there’s no accountability for pretty important memories. The crux of the book is that people create false memories that justify their actions (including false witness testimony) because some mistakes are so dire that they literally could not live with themselves. It’s self-preservation to a degree.

    In my personal life, I find I have a strong memory. Most people agree that the details I remember are accurate and in many cases they were recorded so I can confirm. Insignificant things like which movie theater I saw a movie at or who I was with. But when I share a precious memory with someone and they deny they were there, and they’re so sure they were not there that I must be wrong and how dare I accuse them of seeing this movie with me or hearing this joke I’ve repeated (seriously, it gets this heated), then I feel lonely. Because if the only person who experienced this with me doesn’t remember, then I really was alone for all intents and purposes. I suppose it’s possible I’m the one with false memories but most I don’t see what I gain from remembering movie theater locations or dumb old jokes.

    Here’s a link to the book if interested. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any answers. It’s just a collection of case studies. The closest it comes is to say that we can only control ourselves and if we admit mistakes we have more credibility than if we create false memories to justify them:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/0544574788/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_M28yzbFX69A3W

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