Robin Williams gives `Final Cut' its chill


October 15, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Robin Williams continues to shine in films that use his nervous energy best by repressing it, turning him into a character ever ready to pounce, even though the results of doing so would surely prove disastrous.

In The Final Cut, Williams plays Alan Hakman, an employee of a company that implants tiny chips in selected infants' brains that record everything that happens throughout their lives. When they die, it's the job of "cutters" like Hakman to take the footage, edit out all the bad parts and make the dearly departed look like a paragon of virtue.

Such technology has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, a little editing can do wonders when it comes to helping the bereaved family get over their loss, giving them a remembrance that concentrates exclusively on the good. On the negative side, it's all a lie.

Cutters are a special breed of people, turbo-charged film editors who can take a person's life and not only condense it down to just a few minutes, but turn even the vilest dearly departed into a candidate for canonization (think of cutters as the ultimate spin doctors, and be horrified). Such editing would be tough enough, but imagine the stuff they have to look at before it can be edited out. Even the best among us has done things we wouldn't want anyone to see, while the worst of us would produce a horror film no one should ever have to sit through.

Hakman (the name is brutally descriptive of what Alan does) may be a great cutter, but his talent has come at the price of his humanity. Having to steel himself against the most horrible of revelations, he's unable to betray any emotion whatsoever, even in the presence of his bookstore-owning girlfriend (Mira Sorvino, in the thankless role of stand-in for morality).

Still, there's something motivating Alan besides simple pride of craftsmanship, something to do with a childhood adventure that went horribly wrong. No one realizes it, but Alan's not as much with the program as everyone thinks. Which makes him more susceptible than even he realizes to the entreaties of former cutter Fletcher (Jim Caviezel), who has since joined the ranks of protesters who see the "rememory" process as evil, ungodly (or perhaps too godly) and a scourge on the human soul.

First-time writer-director Omar Naim has crafted a slick sci-fi thriller that comes complete with enough twists to keep audiences satisfied and enough moral quandaries to keep the thinkers happy. Not everything clicks; the childhood accident turns into a bit of a red herring (here's guessing some key footage related to it ended up on the cutting-room floor), and Sorvino's part seems underdeveloped.

But Williams' chilling performance, of a kind with his unnerving turn in 2002's One Hour Photo, helps guarantee The Final Cut gets under your skin for all the right reasons.

The Final Cut

Starring Robin Williams, Mira Sorvino

Written and directed by Omar Naim

Rated R (mature thematic material, some violence, sexuality and language)

Released by Lions Gate Films

Time 105 minutes

Sun Score ***

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