I feel like I don't even have to review 'Seven Pounds,' I only have to review the poster. It's indicative of the film that it's marketing key art simply depicts a large head-shot of Will Smith, and little else. He's really the only thing this movie has going for it, and the only thing needed to sell it. I suspect with a script as potentially intriguing but so miserably misconceived and executed as 'Seven Pounds',' it never would have been made at all if Smith hadn't felt compelled to star in it.
'Seven Pounds' is one of those movies that is so reliant on its "big twist" that it's near-impossible to describe it at all without spoiling secrets. So only the basic set-up: Smith stars as IRS agent Ben Thomas. Not exactly a nice guy (as Thomas says at one point, "unremarkable would be an upgrade for me.), he's a man "at a crossroads" searching for a way to redeem his heavy conscience over his past bad deeds. Then, through a way the film never quite explains satisfactorily, he discovers he has the power to change the circumstances of seven strangers who he feels deserve a second chance, including a beautiful printing press worker (Rosario Dawson), a meat salesman (Woody Harrelson), and a sportsman (Barry Pepper). But when the character played by Dawson steals his heart, he must decide if he should reveal his secret -- even if it means giving up on his plan.
There are some good things about 'Seven Pounds.' The cast is certainly attractive (particularly Dawson, who even when made to look haggard remains luminous), it's nicely photographed by Philippe Le Sourde, and director Gabriele Muccino ('The Pursuit of Happyness') sets an ominous tone in the beginning passages that keeps us off-balance -- is this a mystery, science fiction, a thriller, or a romantic drama? Unfortunately, there is just too much that follows that is wrong with 'Seven Pounds.' The film almost immediately gives away too much, with some flashbacks and other story details that are fatally overt. I began to guess where this film was headed, and by the end of the film, was not surprised at all by the outcome. It's awful when you guess a film's supposed "twist" coming from a mile away.
Also a mistake is the inserted romance between Smith and Dawson. It feels tacked-on solely for commercial reasons, and gives us no real emotional pay-off -- in fact, it takes us away from the film's central dramatic thrust. It's irritating. And indicative of the overall sentimental overload of the film in general. 'Seven Pounds,' like its artificial romance, constantly tries to overwhelm us with its melancholy mood and pumped-up melodrama. But with a pay-off so obvious and flat, I didn't feel it coalesced -- there is a reach for spiritual meaning here that is laudable for a commercial Hollywood movie, but without revealing any of the film's surprises, it just doesn't pack the wallop intended.
Then there is Will Smith. He is a likable guy, but even the "Aw, shucks!" act he's started to perfect (as in 'Happyness,' his last collaboration with Muccino) can't save the messiness that surrounds him in 'Seven Pounds.' Earnestness will only get you so far, and Smith is so full of it here, despite some truly despicable behavior his character exhibits at times, that his performance started to become bewildering for me. It's as if Smith is just on auto-pilot, and seems disconnected from the true spirit of the material. Like the movie, Smith feels discombobulated
'Seven Pounds' is, I suppose, well-meaning. And I'm sure there are some, of the more tragically romantic variety, that will embrace it, but for me, it's still a misfire. It telegraphs too much too early, inserts a misguided romance into the proceedings, and doesn't earn the big, sentimental send-off it tries to ram down our throats. Perhaps, through some judicious re-editing, the movie may have worked better. But even at a fundamental story level, 'Seven Pounds' is flawed. Given its intriguing concept and the presence of Smith, 'Seven Pounds' is a substantial disappointment.
Sony has produced a good if somewhat problematic1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode for 'Seven Pounds.' The film is nicely photographed, and looks textured and detailed on Blu-ray, with only uneven color reproduction detracting.
The source is impeccable, as you would expect for a new release. The visual design is sometimes dark, but the transfer never falters. Blacks are excellent, and contrast is well-modulated across the entire grayscale. Colors vary in saturation and intensity by design, but are stable, and sometimes quite vibrant. Unfortunately, as is so common with many Sony transfers, there is an odd skew towards cyan and yellow, and sometimes moments are oversaturated to the point of a loss of detail and realism. Fleshtones, sadly, suffer, with everyone usually looking a bit digital and painted-over. Detail is still often above-average, especially on close-ups and darker scenes, and this is usually a sharp and dimensional presentation. And typical of Sony titles, the encode is great -- there's no edge enhancement or other artifacts to complain about. Very, very nice.
'Seven Pounds' is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit). The film's sound design will not tax your home theater, but it's a very fine presentation of the source material.
Much of 'Seven Pounds' is subdued, if slickly refined. Dynamic range is excellent, with a sweet, rich timbre to high-end and enough low bass to easily support the dramatic nature of the film. The score also sounds lush and lovely, and is subtly dispersed throughout the soundfield. Surrounds are lively and engaging during exterior scenes, and there's even some nice (if not too aggressive) ambiance to quieter moments. Dialogue remains the strongest element of the mix, however, and its forcefully balanced in the mix and well-integrated throughout.
Sony has put together a pretty typical selection of extras for 'Seven Pounds.' There's nothing outside the box, and most of the material is pretty fawning. Video quality is high, however, with all materials presented in sterling 1080i/AVC MPEG-4.
'Seven Pounds' is a frustrating and often overbearing drama. I like Will Smith, and I like the idea of the story, but the movie veers into such maudlin, heavy-handed and sometimes just plain unbelievable territory it can't escape the whiff of major disappointment. This Blu-ray is anything but, with strong video and audio, and decent enough supplements. I guess the curious can give this a rent, but I found 'Seven Pounds' very unsatisfying.