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WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

This is one of those films that’s impossible to review without giving away the twist – or lying.
So I’m going to lie – but only the same lies the film-makers use to mislead you for the bulk of the movie.
So – Will Smith appears to play Ben Thomas – a tax inspector, with an unhealthy obsession with a giant jellyfish, haunted by a car crash in which the rest of his family died.
Ben visits several people who are behind on their tax payments, most of them arguing that they’re so ill, they need every penny they can muster to spend on their medical treatment.Among them are a blind pianist (Harrelson) and the beautiful Emily (Dawson).
Ben insists that he can help all these people out if they deserve it, but he’s never specific about how. Only his best friend Dan (Pepper) knows, and he starts getting cold feet when the moment gets close.
As Ben struggles on with his secret mission, he forges an unexpected relationship with Emily, which only serves to firm up his plans.
Never has a taxman been so tortured in his goals – but I suppose they’re usually more used to hurting people than helping them.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Goodness – where to start with this worthy, self-important nonsense.
The film is built on a car crash, guilt, sickness, a jellyfish and a vegetarian dog – all the necessary ingredients to cook up one of the biggest messes in modern day cinema.
If it doesn’t end up in the “top ten worst films that think they’re good” of this year, I might be forced to give up on films altogether.
Unusually for Will Smith, there is almost no chink of light in this film at all. It’s dark and moody – so dark and moody that at the London premier last week, the star – almost out of prophetic desperation – promised that if we went along to see it, he’d do another comedy next.
I saw it at a BAFTA screening, which means the film-makers were clearly hoping it would get some nominations. No chance. Come on Will – you’ve had a couple of Oscar nominations in the past – you know how to do it, and this isn’t it! This is just a cynical attempt to tug at the Academy members’ heart-strings.
His performances is powerful, yes, but it’s deceitful, so it’s difficult to judge.
Because you don’t know what’s really going on in the main character’s mind, you simply can’t identify with him and support him – or otherwise – in his endeavours. And if, within five minutes, you’ve worked out his true plan and motive, then you’ll be irritated by being strung along by a series of disingenuous lies.
Whatever way you think of it, when you realise that you’ve been watching a film other than that initially presented to you, you’ll feel cheated – it’s not one of those clever 6th Sense kind of twists, that survives a second viewing – without the twist, this film is nothing – with it, you’ll feel like you’ve been lied to.
Just watch the trailer and you’ll see how impossible it is to sell this film – you get no sense of what the film is about at all – not a good sign, from the outset.

opens nationwide 16th January 2009

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