What would you do to get a second chance at life? Questions concerning mortality and morality have been fodder for countless science fiction books and movies. This movie itself is a remake of the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Seconds, which in turn was based on the book by David Ely, but today’s outing would rather spend time on car chases and gun fights rather than get into the deeper aspects of the subject.
Billionaire real estate mogul Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is dying of cancer, but when he finds a card from a company called Phoenix Biogenic with the cryptic message “They can help you” written on the back, along with a phone number, he decides maybe money can buy him an escape clause from death. This mysterious company is run by Professor Albright (Matthew Goode) and for a price you can get a second chance at life through a process called Shedding. Damian is shown genetically grown bodies that your consciousness can be transferred to; the only hitch is you must completely abandon your old life.
Damian goes through with the process, after having faked his death at a restaurant in front of his best friend and partner Martin (Victor Garber), and wakes up to find himself in what he thinks is a brand new body. One of the apparent side effects of the procedure is that you will suffer hallucinations, but there are some nice red pills to help with that. Eventually Damian (now looking like Ryan Reynolds) figures out that his hallucinations may not be what the good doctor says they are, and that they are actually memories peculating up from the recess of the brain he’s now inhabiting. He ends up on a road trip to track down these images he keeps seeing; a water tower, a beautiful Hispanic woman and a cute little girl. His visions eventually lead him to Brighton, St. Louis and a small little house that belongs to Madeline (Natalie Martinez) and her daughter Anna (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) who match the flashes of “memory.” While wandering around the house he of course confirms that the body he currently inhabitants wasn’t some vat grown body, but that of a living man by the name of Mark, who was married to a Madeline, but gave up his life for the money required to save their sick daughter. This is when guys with shotguns and flamethrowers show up.
It’s at this point the film decides it doesn’t want to get into any philosophical debate about the mind or the soul, or what makes a person a person, not when you can have gunfights, car chases and badass hand to hand combat. Lucky for Damian that body he now inhabits was some kind of Special Forces military dude, and so he is able to use muscle memory to take out Professor Albright’s goons. This is only made possible because Anton (Derek Luke), chief henchman for Phoenix Biogenic, is told to bring in Damian alive. Why Albright would want Damian alive is never explained; they have his money, and Damian’s knowledge of the Phoenix Biogenic’s dark secret could ruin them, so keeping him around is just ludicrous.
This is a movie that sets up an interesting premise, and then doesn’t bother to do anything with it. Once the third act kicks into action mode it becomes another check your brain at the door thriller. It also made the mistake of casting Ryan Reynolds to play Ben Kingsley. Now I think Ryan Reynolds is fine actor, and was recently very impressed with his performance in the film Voices, but nothing in his bag of acting tricks can make us believe he is an aging Ben Kingsley stuffed in a younger body. That Reynolds had already done the body switching shtick in The Change-Up makes this casting choice even more bizarre. Directed by Tarsem Singh this film comes across like a Limitless knock-off, nothing like Singh’s previous, and more interesting works. This is not a terrible film, just immensely forgettable.