Will Smith’s track record at the box office will likely be enough to draw crowds into his latest film Seven Pounds. His metamorphosis from teen rapper to one of Hollywood’s most versatile male actors has earned him scores of well-deserved accolades. But this venture—one that swirls around the number seven—may challenge his viewers to the point of discomfort.
In a mere seven seconds, Ben Thomas’ (Will Smith) life is irrevocably altered. All the regrets in the world can’t change the outcome or lessen the pain of the dark secret he carries inside. It is the defining moment in his life and becomes the catalyst behind his new approach to living in which he vows to better the lives of others.
With an odd combination of compassion and caustic sharpness, Ben, an IRS employee, plagues the private existence of various individuals in very personal ways, using means that are at the very least illegal, if not unethical. Drawing them into the emotional rollercoaster he is experiencing himself, their journey is as unsettling and disjointed as the opening scenes of the film, which flash between a myriad of characters and scenarios. At one point Ben brutally berates an innocent helpline operator (Woody Harrelson). Only moments later he is seen offering assistance to an elderly woman (Fiona Hale) and giving gardening advice to a neighbor (Amanda Carlin).
In a seemingly methodical manner, he approaches the administrator of a seniors’ care center (Tim Kelleher), a volunteer hockey coach (Bill Smitrovich) and a social worker (Judyann Elder) during his unexplained, invasive spree. Then Ben tracks down Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) and confronts the ailing heart patient with an overdue tax account in the middle of a crowded hospital cafeteria. Although their initial meeting is ill timed, especially for Emily, their subsequent encounters soften the experience. Before long Ben appears to have found a salve for his tortured soul.
However, as the layers of his painful past are peeled back, the antidote for his unhappiness becomes more and more troublesome. Seeking to atone for those horrific seven seconds, Ben’s redemptive quest leads down a path as equally disturbing as the event that put him on the course. With a smattering of profanities and a sexual encounter between two adults, this film’s most disconcerting content focuses on death. The bloody aftermath of a gruesome crash, a fatal self-administered poisoning and several life-threatening illnesses add to this script’s heavy tone. Raising ethical and moral issues, the film gives viewers a flawed hero whose attempts to right his wrongs present a dangerous option, especially to impressionable teens and adults that may be suffering from their own feelings of remorse or guilt.
Though Smith has taken on other characters seeking redemption in films like The Pursuit of Happyness and I Am Legend, parental caution is strongly advised before introducing older teens to his latest big screen persona.