Seven Pounds

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This is going to be one of those reviews where people say I went easy on what they consider to be a terrible, terrible movie. I can certainly see that point of view, though I think the movie leans more toward mediocre than terrible. It’s definitely not good, though. That’s the important thing.

Oh! The movie. It’s “Seven Pounds,” and it stars Will Smith as a man who does some things, and Rosario Dawson as a woman he meets, and that’s just about all I can tell you without spoiling anything. You see, the movie itself doesn’t really tell you what it’s about until near the end. You gotta watch 100 minutes of … miscellaneous activity … before you get a sense that it’s actually going anywhere. And then, where it goes? Not very interesting.

Here’s what we learn early enough in the film that revealing it here is fair. Smith plays an IRS agent named Ben Thomas who, in a flash-forward snippet from later in the story, seems to be suicidal. He’s looking for people whose taxes are in arrears due to major medical problems, apparently in search of someone who deserves leniency from the IRS. One of the people he meets is Emily Posa (Dawson), who has heart problems. One of those problems might be that it’s gonna get broken by Ben Thomas.

In one scene, Ben speaks in a cruel, haughty fashion to a blind customer-service representative (Woody Harrelson), then hangs up the phone, seems furious with himself, and chants a litany of seven names. In other scenes, he spends a lot of time with Emily yet refuses to tell her anything about his past, though flashbacks shown to us include visions of a wife or girlfriend.

Ben’s insistence on remaining an enigma is troublesome. You know how people in real life who go out of their way to seem mysterious or interesting are really just annoying? Turns out that applies to fictional people, too. Movies that insist on hiding their plots for three-quarters of their running time are also a trial of one’s patience.

Everything is melancholy and weepy, directed by Gabriele Muccino, who also made Smith’s “The Pursuit of Happyness,” and blandly written by Grant Nieporte (a TV transplant). Smith and Dawson work awfully hard to make it tolerable, though, and they nearly succeed — Smith because of his natural charm (even in the service of a movie that only wants him to be a saintly martyr), and Dawson because she manages to be soulful and honest even when surrounded by a vague, second-rate story.

C (1 hr., 58 min.; PG-13, a little mild profanity, a little mild sexuality.)

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