FINAL

NR
Reviews

2001 has been the year of actors turned digital filmmakers, and the results have been favorable--until now. This time, it's thespian Campbell Scott who gets behind the camera for his pet project, Final, a vapid, low-tech sci-fi thriller centered on a flat doctor/patient relationship.

Bill (Denis Leary) wakes up in a hospital, believing it's the year 2399 and that he's been cryogenically frozen since 1999. He stumbles around his barren room, slowly regaining his motor skills. Somehow he knows he's going to be given the "final"--a lethal injection that will convert him into an organ donor. But his doctor, Ann Johnson (Hope Davis), explains that he was found unconscious at the bottom of a cliff and has been in a coma for only a week. In order to treat her seemingly delusional patient, Ann conducts a series of therapy sessions aimed at helping Bill recall the events prior to his accident and convincing him that it's still 1999.

After 70 minutes of drawn-out therapy sessions and flashbacks, the plot finally delivers a much-needed twist to reveal the nightmarish truth of Bill's situation. But the twist doesn't surprise so much as reveal how we've been duped; for over an hour, the film misleads audiences by trapping us within Bill's unreliable point of view. Unfortunately, once the mystery is unveiled, the film continues along sluggishly, devoid of suspense. The focus of the film is Bill and Ann's relationship, but the lack of insight into these characters leaves their scenes together feeling emotionally bland.

The driving force of the film is Leary's strong performance. He infuses his character with a good measure of wit, sorrow and rowdiness. His acerbic comedy skills are put to use as his character tests Ann on her knowledge of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Cream to determine if they are both from the same time period--though judging from his tastes, he seems to have been frozen since the '60s. Davis delivers a far more restrained performance. A victim of her dour environment, Ann is devoid of any real emotions or even the ability to laugh. In treating Bill, she becomes drawn to him as he stirs up feelings that she has long forgotten. This connection is initially intriguing, but it lacks enough substance to remain engaging. The film attempts to up the dramatic stakes by introducing Ann's sister, whose life ends up resting on Bill's fate, but this move feels forced.

Though Scott co-directed two other films (Big Night with Stanley Tucci and Hamlet with Eric Simonson), his solo effort feels like the debut of an amateur. The movie suffers from a drab-looking palette, out-of-focus shots, careless framing and a blues soundtrack that renders any sense of atmosphere and mystery nonexistent. Walking bass lines and harmonicas are poor choices for a film that tries to evoke a nightmarish world.

--Daniel Steinhart