Once again Robin Williams brings us a character with a deep interior life, a
hint of madness, and a robotic approach to communication. This time it's his
version of a futuristic undertaker but it's awful close to his crazed
photofinisher in "One-Hour
Photo." Repeating a near identical profile, he lays claim to some pretty
claustrophobic psycho-territory. Add "Insomnia," his last film, and this
guy's cornering the market for stiff, morose weirdos.
His man here, Alan Hakman, is in a future time when a chip has been developed
that records a person's entire life through the lens of his eye. Called a
"Zoe" chip, it's not one of the inorganic, siliconized variety that run our
computers. Instead, it's entirely organic, growing near the brain as the
The purpose of it is to provide what has become an integral part of the
funeral ritual... a commemorative ceremony called a "Re-memory"--an edited
portion of lifetime experience for the survivors. These bio-editors (here
called "cutters") are in steady demand, handling the delicate reponsibility
to put the playback together in a tasteful and protective way. Banished to
the cutting room floor are the scenes of embarrassment, criminal activity,
sexual depravity, and the like. This re-editing is a clean-up job.
Taking his cue from the cliche of a mortician whose clients have just
suffered loss and require the utmost sensitivity, Williams provides the
buttoned up undertaker characterization as appropriate to his station.
Before sitting down to his cutting table, he interviews the close survivors
and makes notes of the deceased moments of value for his sanitized rememory
Along with his clients and fans and an inner circle of peers (including a
fetching Mimi Kuzyk), he's got a girlfriend and a very serious enemy. First,
the girlfriend. She's Delila (Mira Sorvino), a sexy bookseller who actually
goes to bed with the zombie-like Hakman. Why she would, given his absence of
personality, flair or humor, has to do with the fact that he's seen her
before, through the eyes of her previous lover, now dead. Hakman cut the
guys' Zoe chip and, in doing so, came to understood Delila's emotional
vulnerabilities enough to exploit them and gain her trust. Of course, her
finding out about this invasion of her privacy makes for a moment of Sorvino
wrath and high drama. But no effort to humanize this undertaker with
unbelievable sex action is going to be convincing or spicy enough to
resurrect the plot.
The serious enemy is Fletcher (James Caviezel), a retired cutter who seems
now embroiled in a criminal enterprise. He's after the Zoe chip just
entrusted to Hakman by the newly widowed Jennifer Bannister (Stephanie
Romanov). Fletcher's desperate interest in acquiring it may have something
to do with the dead man's criminal dealings. Hakman takes the threat
seriously enough to arm himself with a revolver, but protection against
killers may be a little out of an essentially mousy guy's league.
What seems to keep you in your seat through this vacuum is the wondering
about how far an incredible premise can be taken. Through one lapse of logic
after another, the only amazement is what nonsense a writer thinks he can
get away with within a sci-fi framework. Perhaps the worst failure of
writer-director Omar Naim's script is in asking us to buy into anyone's
acceptance of such post-mortem reels of lives.
Despite some brilliant photography by cinematographer Tak Fujimoto that
eerily supports the illusion of reality as befits the genre, and some
suspense that seems more the effect of Brian Tyler's score than the elements
of drama, the effort doesn't inspire a need for its own rememorization.
Where's an objective editor when you need one?
~~ Jules Brenner