Movie Review ~ Final Cut (2022)

The Facts:

Synopsis: A director is charged with making a live, single-take, low-budget zombie flick in which the cast and crew, one by one, actually turn into zombies. A French remake of Shin’ichirô Ueda’s cult hit One Cut of the Dead.
Stars: Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Finnegan Oldfield, Matilda Lutz, Grégory Gadebois, Simone Hazanavicius
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Rated: R
Running Length: 111 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: It will always and forever more be a puzzlement to me why an established (and furthermore, Oscar-winning) director would want to take an existing film and remake it without having much to say in the retelling. Conversely, a filmmaker trying to establish a foothold in the industry might want to challenge themselves to use their voice to retell a previously made movie. This could be their way of honoring a director with a style that inspired them or an opportunity to do something radically different, allowing both films to live independently.

For better or worse, what we have with Final Cut (or Coupez! as it was known when it premiered at Cannes in 2022) is the first scenario I described with a little bit of scenario two thrown in. While it doesn’t leave much room for an invigorating reimagining of Shin’ichirô Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead from 2017, it at least is a wild and often wildly entertaining reminder of what made that original film so special. We may have a relatively straightforward, sharply made remake in the hands of a talented director like Michel Hazanavicius, yet there’s a reverence in the redo of each tricky twist that unfolds.

A rag-tag film crew presided over by a manic director (Romain Duris, All the Money in the World) is making a low-budget zombie flick and struggling to get the last shots. The leading lady (Matilda Lutz, Revenge) is more zombie than her co-star (Finnegan Oldfield) is pretending to be, infuriating her director. A comforting make-up artist (Bérénice Bejo) tries to console the actress and entertain the stars with her talents at Krav Maga between awkward pauses and oddly improvised moments. Then she casually lets it slip that they are filming in the exact location where experiments were conducted on humans earlier and that no one goes there because it is said to be cursed. Before you know it, the crew turns into zombies (with terrible make-up — again…weird), and the set erupts into a gore fest, all captured in one bloody uninterrupted take. 

Though I remember seeing One Cut of the Dead when it was initially released, it had been a minute since I had thought about it, and I made the mistake of diving into Final Cut without refreshing my memory. That was a minor mistake because I nearly bailed ten minutes in. If you find yourself in this same situation, let me assure you that it’s best to press on and don’t give up. You may be wondering why the actors and crew speak French but have Japanese names, and you could be thinking how awful the production values feel. Is Hazanavicius making fun of the original film by remaking it scene for scene but amping up the carnage and hysteria? Yes and…no. Well…you’ll have to see.

Giving away where Final Cut goes would make me a real stinker, and I honestly want you to be able to experience it for yourself. Though gifted with higher production values than its predecessor, neither movie is above scrutiny for being silly and overly wink-wink-nudge-nudge at a film industry obsessed with delivering low-quality products but still charging top-flight prices. For either film to work, a set of pieces must be lined up perfectly at the outset, and in that respect, Hazanavicius understands the assignment. In many ways, making The Artist, predominately a silent film relying on reaction and little on dialogue, helps the director find actors that can convey a lot physically without moving the narrative dial very far with dialogue.

The remake is a solid twenty minutes longer than the original, and it feels like it. Some unnecessary beats could be shored up, and there’s a frustrating tendency to let the focus shift to characters we aren’t fully introduced to or care about instead of the more interesting actors in the room. When Hazanavicius strikes gold, though (particularly with his wife Bejo, who gets into a giddy groove near the end), there’s little stopping him, and that’s when Final Cut skims close to surpassing its inspiration. If you stick with it and don’t give in to your instinct to flee, you’ll find a winner you won’t be able to look away from.

Where to watch Final Cut (2023)

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