Seven Pounds
Columbia Pictures
At Quality 16 and Showcase

1.5 out of 5 Stars

By Sheri Jankelovitz
Daily Arts Writer

“Seven Pounds” suffers from two major flaws. First, very little is explained during most of the film, making every scene baffling. And second, while the conclusion of the film finally offers a much-needed explanation, it’s a lame one.

Ben Thomas (Will Smith) is an I.R.S. agent and a morose guy. His sullenness arises from his terrible secret — one that propels him to find and help those he deems worthy of saving. So muddled and yet so obvious at the same time, the secret is easily guessed within the first 15 minutes. Still, the end of the film is rife with confusion.

Thomas seems to possess all the attributes of a first-class stalker. He lurks in hospital hallways, stands over a blind man while he eats and has a generally eerie demeanor. Because nothing is explained until the end of the film, it’s hard to determine just why Thomas is behaving like such a creep. This is most likely done intentionally, to shroud the entire film in cheap mystery. Instead, it proves to be a headache-inducing experience.

By the time Thomas’s true motives are revealed, there’s so much suspense that the truth would have to be something spectacular to appease viewers. Unfortunately, it’s nothing special. The film swells to a mind-blowing conclusion, but, when it comes, it’s far closer to a whimper than a bang. The truth is much less exciting than any of the possibilities — Thomas is an angel, Thomas is the messiah, it was all a crazy dream — running through the audience’s mind.

Smith is such a charismatic guy that it’s almost a crime to keep him so subdued. The rare moments when his character cracks a joke or a smile make the audience laugh or smile in turn. After all, it’s nice to see Will Smith being Will Smith. If only we didn’t have to suffer through his dreariness for the rest of the film’s running time.

Looking beyond Smith’s performance, the entire film is actually rather bleak as well, though several scenes demonstrate its potential. As two of Ben’s seven chosen people to save, Rosario Dawson (“Sin City”) and Woody Harrelson (“No Country for Old Men”) garner interest as multifaceted characters who, unfortunately, aren’t given enough time to shine. Dawson gives off an especially luminous quality; each of her scenes with Smith works because both actors are simultaneously dramatic and human. In particular, the scene where Smith and Dawson share a candlelit dinner showcases the chemistry they could have, if only the film gave them room to explore it.

The film’s transparent attempts to get viewers to think and cry at the same time are exhausting. Whatever is supposed to be so moving or thought provoking is left a mystery. In the end, nothing much happened, and the little that did borders on ridiculous. The film just jerks us around, and when it’s all over, it’s not a very exciting ride.

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