Will Smith. Movie star. Famous for playing Muhamad Ali. Magnetic screen presence. The former Fresh Prince of Bel Air is one of the biggest draws the Hollywood box office has in its arsenal. The Philadelphia-born actor gets a $20m cheque in the post for his performances, but is this one worth that price tag?
'Seven Pounds' follows an IRS agent, Ben Thomas, (Smith) whose daily life involves assessing the medical expenses of people who owe the government huge sums of money. It is Thomas' job to determine whether these people are fraudsters and should be clamped down upon or whether they are genuine and deserve their ‘accounts' to be kept on hold by the government.
However, this is only one side of Thomas' life. In addition to his day job, Thomas is haunted by the demons of his past. He seems a man on edge, deeply troubled and disturbed by events that have taken away loved ones and self-respect. These are hinted at gently through deft snippets of flashbacks that illuminate something horrific which changed Thomas' life for the worse.
This dark event, it becomes clear, has driven Thomas to use unusual methods to assess those assigned to him, including blind call centre worker Ezra Turner (Harrelson) and weak-heart victim Emily Poza (Dawson). Thomas seems intent on ensuring that good people get good IRS treatment.
While investigating Poza, both characters discover a special bond and an understanding develops between them: cue the film's love interest.
There are most definitely Hollywood movies that use all within their power to manipulate an audience into that tear-jerking, heartbroken feeling and those that don't. This is unabashedly the former. However, 'Seven Pounds' admits this so openly and is written with enough truth, shot in a simply deceptive style and edited with a simplicity that is so rare in these halcyon days for MTV style edits, that even the most-hardened cineaste will see merit in the delivery of this story.
Smith plays Thomas as a doe-eyed and broken figure who sees redemption in helping others and a shot at love. The excellent Dawson ('Kids', 'Sin City', 'Deathproof') is a stunning beauty who any man would find hard to resist, and Smith's character is no exception.
The chemistry between Dawson and Smith is superb. Both actors simply radiate sexual energy and warmth onscreen and deliver an exceptionally tender romance which one cannot help but will to success.
While the film slips into Hollywood stereotype now and again with some silly jokes and obvious schmaltzy piano-scored soundtrack moments, the love story maintains one's interest throughout. Writer Grant Nielporte also weaves elements of William Shakespeare's classic text 'The Merchant of Venice' into his story, adding a literary weight to proceedings.
Combined with this touching romance, one is left for much of the film trying to work out why Smith's character is trying to be so damn nice to everybody, seeing as he is so broken himself.
The answer to this all becomes clear in an ending that the good people at Sony Pictures have asked all film hacks to keep secret, which I will, not wanting to offend such delicate people. Suffice to say, you will not be paid $20m to go and see 'Seven Pounds' - but this film is well put together, well acted and intriguing enough to pay a few euros for to brighten up a January day.