MIDWAY : Seven Pounds
Here’s a mystery drama that’s supposed to get us asking questions in a whispery, awestruck voice, questions like: “Oh wow, what’s Will Smith doing? What is his secret? What terrible private pain drives him? That aura of tragic, saintly heroism which if anything makes him sexier than ever — what is it all about?” The question I was asking myself after 30 minutes was: “When is this incredibly tiresome nonsense going to end?” The answer, I discovered after a tense squint at the publicity material, was: after another solid hour and a half.
Gabriele Muccino, the Italian film-maker who directed Smith in the 2006 family drama The Pursuit of Happyness, is now at the helm of a movie intended to be both puzzle and emotional journey — halfway between what Variety magazine calls a head-scratcher and a tear-jerker. Maybe make that: tear-scratcher. We are initially supposed to be intrigued by that enigmatic title, unexplained until the very last, and perhaps inspired by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s 21 Grams. Gosh, what does “seven pounds” mean? Could it, perchance, refer to the exorbitant price currently being asked for this film’s knockoff DVD by a bloke standing in a London street?
The action starts with Will Smith agonisingly phoning the emergency services. He is evidently in the midst of a spiritual and physical crisis. Then we flashback to what led up to this calamity, and the puzzle pieces are coyly lowered into position. Smith is Ben Thomas, apparently an officer with the Internal Revenue Service, galvanised by his own mysterious mission — searching, searching, searching for decent, kind, good people. With incredible condescension, he tells the successful ones things like: “You have a beautiful family.”
The most supremely annoying moment in this supremely annoying film comes when Ben actually insults blind call-centre worker and part-time pianist Ezra (Woody Harrelson) for the specific purpose of testing him: checking whether he is meek and
nice and good enough to measure up to his
moral standards. Are there any other disabled
people he wishes to test in this way, I wondered? If I was Ezra, I would tell our tortured, jug-eared dreamboat to go jump in a lake.