The Final Cut
The Final Cut

USA, 2004. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes.

Cast: Robin Williams, Mira Sorvino, James Caviezel, Mimi Kuzyk, Stephanie Romanov, Thom Bishops, Genevieve Buechner, Brendan Fletcher, Vincent Gale
Writer: Omar Naim
Original Music: Brian Tyler
Cinematography: Tak Fujimoto
Producers: Nancy Paloian-Breznikar, Nick Wechsler
Director: Omar Naim


Grade: D+ Review by Erika Hernandez

I  left The Final Cut so perturbed I promptly bought a stiff drink. While I have never been prone to blind idealism, The Final Cut's message left me feeling eerily cynical. My hope for talented young filmmakers with no industry connections was, for a moment, shot to smithereens.

The Final Cut's message is: Unless you are a Coppola or have some HUGE independent source of financial backing, do not go into Hollywood with your best ideas. They will be defiled. Save your best ideas for the day when you have enough clout to say, “I don't care if God himself is attached. I am not compromising my work. Now leave my set.”

I am not going to pretend to know the story behind how The Final Cut was made. However, after screening this sci-fi thriller written and directed by twenty-six year-old Emory film school grad Omar Naim, I can guess. A very smart first-time feature writer/director, perhaps one of the most promising in his class, has an amazing concept and a sophisticated script. But he has to sell it, and in the process sells it out. The film turns into a corrupt and mediocre piece of Cinema by Committee, and Hollywood elements like the big case, the big chase, and a little sex are added.

The sex element is provided by Mira Sorvino, who plays Delila. In a recent interview, Sorvino observed of working with Omar Naim, “Often first-time directors are either insecure or pompous. [Omar] was neither… He is not threatened if everybody experiments a little bit—which makes for a very interesting stew.”

Robin Williams
Robin Williams in the editing room in The Final Cut.

Stew, indeed.

The Final Cut is set in a futuristic society where, for an expensive sum, an Itech Zoë Chip can be implanted into your child's brain. The Zoë Chip functions as a life recorder. Everything you see, hear, and do until you die is captured in the first person. At the end of your life, your loved ones can arrange for a Cutter to assemble the highlights. Then, at your funeral, the finished product can be viewed at a Rememory Screening—basically a “You” movie. This service is complimentary, and the Cutter is bound to secrecy no matter what he/she finds.

Naim's gorgeous premise is full of possibilities. The questions it provokes are fascinating. How differently would you live your life if all its events were being recorded? Is that life at all? Would you choose to live? How sacred is personal experience? Is such a process ethical, considering the chip is implanted into the brains of infants who cannot make decisions? What would your Zoë Chip contain? Instead Naim goes for cheap thrills—the protagonist gets assigned to a Big Case, finds something Bad, struggles with it, and a Big Chase ensues.

Aptly named for what he does, Alan Hackman (played by Robin Williams, who does that creepy “Sy the Photo Guy” thing from One-Hour Photo) is Itech's premiere Cutter. A self-proclaimed “sin eater,” Alan toils away in his apartment, deleting the deceased's most abhorrent and illegal acts and piecing together the “good” in everyone. Alan “eats” other peoples' sins, because he himself is atoning for something he did when he was a boy.

The Final Cut's plot goes in multiple directions, while its exciting premise lays there like a forsaken jewel. There is an Anti-Zoë Chip counterculture brewing, led by ex-Cutter, Fletcher (James Caviezel). Fletcher and his crew (some of whom bear special tattoos that signify they have deactivated their Chips) are out to destroy Intech by exposing one of its deceased executives as a child molester. Of course, Alan possesses his Chip. Fletcher stalks Alan and lays guilt trips on him at every turn. (Incidentally, Caviezel sports the most distracting fake beard in recent cinema history. I realize it might be a disguise, but this is the future. Why didn't he just use the one from that Jesus film?) In the meantime, Alan tries to find the kid he left for dead, and in the process discovers that he—the King of the Cutters—has a Zoë implant!

Alan also has a brief affair with Delilah (Mira Sorvino), an attractive bookseller from around the corner. The attraction (on her part) is never explained, and the two look incongruous in bed together. Delilah quickly becomes impatient with Alan's late hours, and eventually throws things at him when she finds out that he edited her ex-boyfriend's life. If a sexy female had to be added, she should have been a Cutter, too.

After The Final Cut ends, you too become a Cutter, trying to fish out something meaningful out of its pointless drama. Filmmaking hopefuls, learn from Omar Naim, and stick to your guns. Don't let powerful parties make your vision into stew.

Review © October 2004 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2004 Lions Gate Films. All Rights Reserved.

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