I tend to like movies and movies, especially making movies. Watching the trials and tribulation of a shoot just tickles me. I love a realistic look at filmmaking, but sometimes, a wild and wacky swing is just as fun. With Final Cut, we have a remake of One Cut of the Dead, a recent highlight of the genre, but we also have a love letter to people coming together to make a film. The joy of moviemaking here shines through, allowing it to be worth its salt.
Final Cut is a faithful remake of One Cut of the Dead, so just know that going in. If you’ve never heard of that flick, this one will definitely be something a bit different. If you have, then this will just be another execution of that same basic premise. Here, more so than last time, the first act is rough, but getting through that will allow you to enjoy what’s to come. Especially once you get to the final section, it’s firing on all cylinders.
There are three distinct sections to the film. In the first, we watch about a half hour’s worth of a zombie movie shoot that appears to get infected by a real outbreak of zombies. It’s cheesy and low-budget, but you’re not aware it’s the movie within the movie until we get to the middle portion. There, we flash back to before the shoot, where struggling filmmaker Rémi Bouillon (Romain Duris) is approached by Japanese producer Mme Matsuda (Yoshiko Takehara). They want Rémi to direct a one-take horror film, helping to launch a new television network. The hook is that it’s live and in a single take, none of which appeals to him, let alone the genre. However, his daughter Romy (Simone Hazanavicius) loves horror and is an aspiring filmmaker herself, so he reluctantly accepts, collecting a motley crew of actors and production team. People fall out, forcing Rémi to play the director, while his wife Nadia (Bérénice Bejo) steps in for another major role. Against all odds, as well as with Rémi’s waning sanity, it seems like the shoot might actually happen.
The third, and best section, brings us back to the shooting of the program. This time, however, we’re seeing it from behind the scenes, replete with chaos. Rémi is running around like a chicken without a head, trying to handle the multitude of crises that pop up. This is the most outright slapstick of the segments, but also the most satisfying. Seeing it all come together is, instead of being repetitive, actually pleasing.
While Bérénice Bejo is the biggest name in the cast, Romain Duris is the highlight, by comparison. No one particularly stands out, but Duris is going big and manic, leading to some amusing moments. Bejo is solid enough, while Simone Hazanavicius is fine as well, but nobody leaves a bit impression. They’re all in service of the gimmick. In addition to the aforementioned Yoshiko Takehara, the cast includes Grégory Gadebois, Matilda Lutz, Finnegan Oldfield, Jean-Pascal Zadi, and more.
Filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius definitely is having fun with the whole hook of the movie. If his writing and direction hew close to One Cut of the Dead, there’s enough here to make it a remake still of interest to those who have seen the original. The script more or less is the same, while the direction almost leans more into the cheesiness and comedy of it all. Hazanavicius may have had a one off Oscar hit with The Artist, but this might be the project he’s enjoyed making the most. At the same time, he leans a bit too far into how poorly executed the production is in act one, so if you’re at all confused about what’s going on, it may seem like you’re just watching Z grade horror. The middle section is fine, but it’s getting to the back end where you finally see why this appealed to him.
Final Cut may not have the same originality as One Cut of the Dead, but it ultimately succeeds on the strength of its third act. Depending on how much of a chore act one is for you, that might determine where you fall on this one. While the opening section was a struggle for me, by the time we see it done from behind the scenes, I was sold. It’s not high art, but it is entertaining, so it deserves at least a mild recommendation.