THE STORY – Things go badly for a small film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie when they are attacked by real zombies.
THE CAST – Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Grégory Gadebois, Finnegan Oldfield & Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz
THE TEAM – Michel Hazanavicius (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes
By Amy Smith
When “One Cut of the Dead” was released back in 2017, many critics struggled to review the film due to the surprising elements within the narrative. As Michel Hazanavicius’s “Final Cut” follows a very similar screenplay and structure, this will also be a tough film for people to review and talk about. It’s also going to be a very polarising film among film fans, given the fact that it is a French remake of a Japanese film with a cult following. However, with the poor reception of another zombie film at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, “The Dead Don’t Die,” how does this one handle the heat?
Despite playing the same beats and jokes as “One Cut of the Dead,” there are a lot of laughs to be found within “Final Cut.” There are some fresh jokes thrown in, primarily to do with the fact that the original film fits into the universe that “Final Cut” is set in. It can be confusing to begin to understand why Japanese references are made in the opening act of the film, but it later acts as a punchline that works incredibly well given the circumstances. Hazanavicius is very aware that he is remaking a recent release with a cult following, and he leans into that in his version to add extra humor along the way.
While many people will be familiar with the premise of “Final Cut” due to the original, this review will refrain from revealing any of the major surprises and narrative twists this story takes. However, the reveals may not surprise you when watching the film as the opening act slowly makes it obvious that not everything is as it seems with this zombie tale. Even when it becomes clear where the narrative is heading, there is humor found in watching the situation unfold and trying to figure out exactly what is going on off-screen. The opening act, in which the director creates real zombies to scare his cast into giving “sincere” performances in his fictional zombie film, immediately sets up the film’s tone and clarifies that this is not a film that is going to take itself seriously. This opening sequence also works due to the level of commitment from the cast on-screen to sell this crazy narrative, with many layers added to their performance due to later reveals. It is over-the-top and silly at times, but it mainly works and manages to create a more lasting impact by the end.
If Hazanavicius’s remake is going to lose audiences, it is going to happen in the second act. After a fun first act, the tone changes drastically as the film’s true narrative is fully revealed. One month’s worth of storytelling is told in a short 40-minute timespan, and with that, this section feels incredibly rushed. The screenplay also focuses on aspects of the story that are not that fascinating, not leaving enough time for character development or for connections to be developed. Additionally, Hazanavicius is passionate about filmmaking and showcasing that on screen, but the focus on this in the second act does not feel personal or impactful. Since this film is a remake of a Japanese horror film, it would have been nice for the film to delve further into the horror genre and play around with some of the tropes associated with that. Aside from a couple of funny jokes, this section drags the film and, unfortunately, lowers the story’s impact.
However, “Final Cut” is saved by a hilarious final act that directly goes back to the film’s opening. This is when Hazanavicius’s passion for filmmaking comes through as the techniques are highlighted on screen to explain what happened at the film’s start. Moments that were funny in the first act got further context and, as such, became even funnier, even if the tone was still over-the-top. The tension and action build due to the kinetic editing style and the electric score composed by Alexandre Desplat, which is very different from a lot of his most recent work. Seeing all of the performances from a different perspective shows the impressive range that the actors have, with Romain Duris as the director of the film being the stand-out.
“Final Cut” was meant to premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival but was pulled from the lineup once it was announced that the festival would be primarily streaming online. Watching the film with a large crowd on the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival created an electric atmosphere within the room and showcased the power this film has to entertain a large crowd. While it will certainly not be for everyone, either because of the tone or due to it being a remake, it is great to see a story like this gaining a fan following and being told to different audiences. For a zombie film, this had plenty of life within it.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A fun opening act immediately sets the tone for the film and is complimented nicely by a hilarious closing act that ties the film up nicely. A clear love for filmmaking is shown on-screen.
THE BAD – The middle section of the film feels incredibly rushed and under-developed, losing a lot of the fun and momentum from the first thirty minutes. For fans of “One Cut of the Dead,” there may not be enough changes made to be interested in a remake.
THE OSCAR PROSPECTS – None
THE FINAL SCORE – 7/10