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Tale of well-edited lives could use its own cutter

Robin Williams' tormented character splices memories into videos. But the thriller with a promising premise fails to deliver.

October 15, 2004|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

"The Final Cut" lays waste to its provocative premise and a fine performance from Robin Williams with a murky story line that renders the film not worth the effort. It's not an instance of keeping the audience guessing to generate suspense, it's simply lousy screen storytelling that brings contrivance and coincidence into unflattering relief.

At 51, Williams' Alan Hakman is the quintessential hollow man, forever haunted by a tragedy that struck him at age 10 -- depicted in the film's prologue. He is sustained by his work as a videotape cutter with an unusual assignment.

Omar Naim, fledgling writer-director of "The Final Cut," imagines that for more than half a century the Zoe Tech company has been manufacturing its costly Zoe Chip, which is implanted in the brain of a fetus to create a visual and aural record of an individual's entire life. And this was available to those who could afford it as far back as the late 1940s?

Upon the individual's death the chip can yield a video record, which when viewed on a multiple-image screen, can allow a Cutter -- and Hakman is considered the best -- to create a drastically edited version of the individual's life experience to be shown at his or her funeral.

In this manner Hakman can grant a dead person a form of absolution by editing out less attractive moments.

As it happens, the head of Zoe Tech has died at age 54, and the widow has hired Hakman to create his "rememory."

Although this job inadvertently provides Hakman with an opportunity for redemption, it also places his life in jeopardy, for the deceased seems to have been guilty of multiple vague sins that his company wants to keep secret at any price.

The idea has the makings of a provocative thriller rich in psychological and moral implications, but "The Final Cut" is not that film.

Williams makes of Hakman a credible, even involving, tormented individual, but Mira Sorvino as his would-be girlfriend who despairs of his self-involvement and Jim Caviezel as Hakman's key nemesis are stuck in roles that are as hopelessly fragmentary as the film itself.

There's a certain irony in the title of the film, which boasts two editors, including the legendary Dede Allen, yet has the feeling of having been worked and reworked to the point of incoherence.

*

'The Final Cut'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, some violence, sexuality and language.

Times guidelines: Too intense for youngsters, especially the film's opening sequence.

Robin Williams...Alan Hakman

Mira Sorvino...Delila

Jim Caviezel...Fletcher

Mimi Kuzyk...Thelma, a Cutter

Thom Bishops...Hasan

A Lions Gate Films presentation. Writer-director Omar Naim. Producer Nick Wechsler. Executive producer Nancy Paloian-Breznikar. Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto. Editors Dede Allen, Robert Brakey. Music Brian Tyler. Costumes Monique Prudhomme. Production designer Robert Brakey. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

At selected AMC theaters.

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