Someone, be it the actors or the filmmakers, must have thought that Final Cut would be a good idea. And why not: the inherent drama of people reacting to having their secret lives spilled out in public and having to face the truth about what their so-called friends/wives/families think about them makes for a potentially compelling, rather ripe premise. It's practically the foundation for all theater. Add to that a desire to follow such British bastions of bravery, the filmmaking Mikes (Figgis and Leigh) in creating improvisational movies, cinema where the performers know only the barest of plotlines and then are called up to draw up characters and create scenes to fulfill a directorial desire and vision. If it's successful, you and your mates are geniuses, able to pull off the ultimate cinematic hat trick: the creation of a compelling, original work of complete collaboration. Only problem is, when this type of movie goes wrong, it goes very wonky wrong. Final Cut, sadly, is one of those futile fumbles. What is supposed to be compelling is arch, the drama almost drained completely of life and the final revelation comes out of a left field so formulaic that blind illiterates saw it coming a dozen kilometers away. Instead of wallowing in reality, Final Cut flounders in the gargantuan egos and underdeveloped talent of its making-it-up-as-they-go-along, so-called professionals.
The significant problem with this experimental film is that directors/creators Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis don't let anything organic or natural happen. They run in fear at any attempt at simply letting matters play out realistically. Drug use by a couple of characters MUST have broad, criminal ramifications. A brutish thug must naturally end up being a mindless wife beater and potential threat to all around him. A juvenile woman with a paraplegic for a husband has to take her hatred to painful personal levels and manifest her mania in a desire to steal that leads to blackmail. The mousy man must be effeminate and the casual acquaintance a lingerie-wearing transvestite. And then worst of all there is our main character, the supposedly charismatic Jude (played here by same named Jude Law). Here is a man who is so smitten with himself and his sneaky way of recording his friends that he turns his home into CIA Headquarters. He relishes the private knowledge that circumstances he sets up (see, not EVERYTHING he records comes as the natural progression of life) result in terrible, embarrassing and even physically harmful incidents for his friends. Jude relishes being the mixer, the mean-spirited sad sack who can't be happy until everyone around him is miserable. What Jude's buddies learn far too well is, with friends like him, who needs a tabloid? His personal agenda against his pals is pathetic and unexplained.
Now, one could argue that Jude is just the typical smart ass, witnessing the hideous actions of the people he knows and loves and deciding they need to be taught a lesson. He wants to rub their nose in their own hypocrisy and vanquish his own guilt (by association or, in some cases, direct action) via the recording of their misdeeds. As long as he carries the video camera with him, he is absolved. The fact that he doesn't prevent the assaults and actually stirs up many of the aggressive scenarios that play out is of no import to him. He just smiles with his impish grin, argues that this is for "everyone's own good" and then fires up the next installment of Let's Embarrass Everyone. Is it ok to spit in the face of the charlatan when you too are just as fraudulent (be it drugs or dicking someone else's spouse?). Yet Jude is never taken to task. Besides the fact that he is conveniently dead – making it kind of hard to read him the riot act – he would probably go about hiding behind the truth. These people are miserable miscreants, so exposing them can only be good, right? Maybe, but is it really true? Filmmakers for decades have championed the idea that unless you film someone in real time for the length of time they are doing an action, the moment you cut, or change the angle or perspective, you begin the process of interpreting, not showing reality. So what we see is Jude's impression of his friends, channeled and edited through his thoughts about who and what they are. And apparently they are a bunch of abhorrent sods that deserve everything they get, including the interpreter. Jude is not a friend; he is his namesake, a traitor to the notion and ideals of friendship.
Not that these people really deserve a friend (they do, however, deserve each other). Perhaps the most aggravating factor in Final Cut is that every character here, at their core, is exposed to be immoral swine. No one has any value system. They are easily manipulated and maneuvered into deserting each other and their own family for instant gratification and self-aggrandizement. In the character of Roy, we have a bully of a human boulder that reeks of the repugnant manner in which he treats problems and threatens his friends. His hallow apologies are supposed to ring false, but they are perhaps the only time he is ever true to himself and those around him. He will literally say anything in hopes of getting his way. His wife is no better, a flighty field mouse more than happy to accept his boorish ways as a means of getting solace from her pals. Or take Mark and Holly. She is a thief, stealing money from purses at parties and looking for any manner of fraud to feed her need for material love. He is a cripple who takes pride in being a handicapped coward. He doesn't use his wheelchair as a physical crutch but as an emotional one, a means of getting people to instantly feel sorry for him. Yet the two most vacant individuals are saved for the filmmakers themselves. Dom and Ray are a couple of coked-up losers who think nothing of snorting during the wake or taking their friend's money to feed their habit. They are not so much addicted to the drug as they are to the idea of doing drugs. It keeps them young. It keeps them cool. It keeps them disconnected from the rest of the world who would tell them how wrong they were.
Really a group of people you want to spend time with, right? Indeed, about the only way one can enjoy Final Cut is as a mean-spirited series of comeuppances for a bunch of brats who have had it coming for a long overdue time. You may feel a sharp pang of delight as self-righteous shit after horrible asshole gets his faults flaunted for everyone to see and memorize. Or maybe you will find the performances exceptional. Maybe you'll like the fact that, when required to develop their own dialogue, all arguments are strewn with more epithets than ideas and all interpersonal exchanges sound like the inside of a stupid sappy greeting card. You couldn't enjoy Final Cut for the filmmaking itself, which is really a movie (Jude's secret cameras are still in action) inside a movie (Sadie has called a camera crew over for the wake) inside a movie (Jude's original video voyeurism). Anciano and Burdis get lost so many times, forgetting the focus and perspective we are supposed to be dealing with that shots allegedly coming from one source are actually inhabiting a difference recording "space". They also fail to understand that the choppy editing and narrative randomness undoes any suspense or mystery they want to create. If we are supposed to discover who killed Jude at the end (and no one ever told us he was MURDERER) then aren't we supposed to CARE who done it as well? Is merely solving the case the purpose behind Final Cut? If so, Anciano and Burdis went about it the wrong way completely. They create a crappy character study, and then insert the surprise twist ending. They want a startling revelation. What they get is a groan.
Final Cut suffers from ambitions so lofty that hot air balloonists couldn't follow them and mechanics for achieving them are equally full of overheated gas. It wants to be an acting troupe tour de force, a chance for several soon to be big name stars to flex their method pecs for the entire world to wonder at. Trouble is, Final Cut is almost incoherent. It starts off being a voyeuristic romp, slowly meanders into a harsh interpersonal molestation and then – VOM! – it's an Agatha Christie detective tale without any of the old birds clockwork plotting. Too many things happen randomly in Final Cut and too many things happen for very particular, unnatural reasons. A film that dealt in a straight ahead, non-narrative driven way exposing human foibles in all their freshness and candor would have been exciting. It would have provided insights into the human animal that few films have tried to explore. But this movie wants to mimic its reality entertainment brethren and wrap up all the loss ends in nice, pat portions. Real life isn't like that; it's sloppy and irregular and painful. Kind of like watching Final Cut all the way through.