Cinema Signal:

Steven Spielberg
by Tom Powers
(A&E Biography)

. "The Final Cut"

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 individual grows.

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 reel.

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?

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Mira Sorvino and Robin Williams
Come and see my cuttings, little girl

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