It's said that by donating your organs and tissue, you can save the lives of seven people. In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, a pound of flesh is required to redeem a bad debt. Somewhere, the twain met in the title of Seven Pounds, the latest joint venture between director Gabriele Muccino and actor Will Smith, who also collaborated on The Pursuit of Happyness. As expected, Seven Pounds is another grand morality play in which Smith—here as a man named Ben Thomas—perseveres through great challenges with fortitude and strength of character. The problem is that while some may have been annoyed by the melodrama of Happyness, it was pretty unassailable on the morality front. Pounds' moral preaching, on the other hand, is kinda twisted, yet it's delivered up on the same kind of redemptive platter—swelling music, tears, and all. You've gone too far, guys, with the angel act, and God's gonna smite you down.

As long as we're gonna get all righteous about it, the old man in the sky would no doubt object to the thrust of this film, the axis of which is one of the worst sins in The Book. The problem is, I can't tell you much of what the film is actually about without spoiling the end. It's not one of those films where you literally have no idea what's going on, but the grand finale's full reveal is when you realize the worst of what you've begun to suspect is true.

Support The Portland Mercury

Pounds opens with a distressed Thomas reporting his own suicide to a 911 operator, and the film goes on to bring you up to that point. It's fairly obvious that Thomas has done something for which he feels guilty, and has chosen to change the lives of seven strangers in order to clear his conscience. An IRS agent, Thomas spends most of the film auditing these possible beneficiaries with vigilante flair, including the sickly but still-fetching Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) and the sketchy administrator of an assisted living facility (Tim Kelleher). Thomas also periodically picks on a blind man (Woody Harrelson), constantly brushes off his caring and distraught brother (Michael Ealy), and at one point gives his house away to a complete stranger (Elpidia Carrillo).

As wrongheaded as the message of this movie is, the cast, including Smith, does a great job, and the mystery engagingly taunts you along (plus, there's a singularly imaginative plot thread involving a jellyfish). Seven Pounds makes for an entertaining enough two hours, but don't mistake it for the moral authority it thinks it is.