THE FINAL CUT Movie Review

Good ideas are rare in Hollywood. But rarer still is the tendency to leave a good idea alone.

If a movie is smart enough to rely only on its good idea, the result is almost always a decent film, from "Speed" to "Dark City" and "Memento."

"The Final Cut" represents the opposite tendency, to tinker with something until it's dead. Here is a terrific idea: in the future, parents will have the option to purchase a "Zoe chip" that will be implanted in their unborn child. From the moment of their birth, the chip records everything as the person sees it. After their death, a "cutter" takes the hours, days, and years worth of footage and assembles it into a two-hour film that, more or less, sums up the person's life. (Fortunately for the cutters, people's memories are recorded in Cinemascope and Dolby Surround sound.)

Making his writing and directing debut, Omar Naïm throws in a few more delicious details. Cutters' equipment consists not of shiny metals or plastics, but of handsome wooden cases stained to a dark, oaken finish. Many people are opposed to the Zoe chips because they change people's lives by causing unwanted invasions of privacy. (How does one know if one is being recorded at any given moment?) In addition, some chips have a malfunction and only record images that the person thinks they're seeing, rather than cold, hard reality.

These details alone would have made a great movie. But Naïm goes the Hollywood route and introduces us to a "cutter," Alan Hakman (Robin Williams) who is, of course, "the best in the business." Though just about any day of Alan's life would be fascinating to an ordinary movie viewer, "The Final Cut" instead gives us the most extraordinary, most awesome, most overwhelming adventure of Alan's life.

This translates, more or less, to a standard-issue formula Hollywood thriller.

After the usual "unrelated incident," in which we are introduced to the hero's particular skill set, we learn that Alan has just taken on the job of cutting the life of a wealthy and influential businessman. The businessman was more than a little crooked and had as many enemies as friends, so a rival faction of cutters, led by Fletcher (Jim Caviezel), wishes to obtain the footage in order to show the world just who he really was.

Meanwhile, Alan discovers an image in the businessman's footages that harkens back to his own youth and a memory that has haunted him ever since: the accidental death of another child that may have been Alan's fault.

Everything turns into a race in which Alan must solve his personal puzzle before the bad guys snatch the footage. Despite the new ideas floating around, we've seen it all before. Worst of all is Fletcher's sidekick and hired gun, a one-dimensional nasty who says things like "let's do this."

Mimi Kuzyk ("The Human Stain") turns in a memorable supporting performance as an unruffled fellow cutter who works her way through a series of handsome, younger male assistants, and Mira Sorvino plays "the girl," Delila, because there always has to be a girl.

Williams, whose comedy relies heavily on self-awareness, pain and a cavernous need for adoration, adapts himself perfectly to this tortured soul who can barely face the notion of sitting down for a conversation with another person. It's a very strong performance, betrayed only by the weak script.

It's difficult to predict where Naïm will go from here. In a perfect world, he would discipline his ideas into leaner, more interesting films. But it's more likely that the ideas themselves will fade and then the world will be stuck with just one more factory filmmaker.



" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, LIMITED: Friday, September 24, 2004


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