Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

For my first film of 2022’s Cannes International Film Festival, I could not have selected a more unique title if I tried! Final Cut comes for the jugular with razor-sharp dark comedy hijinks and campy kills. To say the movie flips the script would be an understatement considering the drastic turns it takes the audience on throughout a breezy nearly two-hour runtime. I can safely say that if I had shut the film off at the beginning, I probably would have hated it. Thankfully, the final 45 minutes and the stunning skill on display for the first 30 save Final Cut from a saggy middle section. Written and directed by Oscar winner Michael Hazanavicius, this is one unforgettable zombie flick that captures the raw happy-accident energy of moviemaking.

Without spoiling any of the huge surprises in store, suffice to say that Final Cut is far from one’s typical throwaway zombie flick. Director Remi (Romain Duris) is in the midst of filming his new zombie picture, Z, but they cannot seem to nail the final scene. His lead actress, Ava (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Rings, A Classic Horror Story), is having a hard time channeling the proper amount of fear when confronted with her co-star wearing poorly applied cosmetics. There is talk of the Japanese army doing experiments at their filming location, and a weird vibe on set has everyone on edge. Zombie/love interest Raphael (Finnegan Oldfield) is anxious to simply get home with Ava and take a hot bath. With a severed arm tossed their way in between director meltdowns and paused activity on set, Ava and Raphael must team up with makeup artist Nadia (Oscar nominee Berenice Bejo, The Artist) to face down a deadly threat.

It is worth pointing out that Final Cut will not be a movie for the faint of heart, nor those easily offended. It checks nearly every box in terms of offensive language, off-color jokes, and excessive mentions of bodily fluids. At one point, a character complains about a woman breastfeeding, and makes this colorful comparison: “I should pull out my ball sack and have a baby suck it in public.” Another interval has a man complain that “someone put LGBT in my glass,” and there is a blunt joke about Pearl Harbor. However, if one can get past the crassness of the script, the film beats with a heart of gold. I grew attached to these characters and how the movie plays out, and rooted for the film crew at every step of the way. 

I had no idea before watching this that it was in fact a French remake of Japanese film One Cut of the Dead. I remain unsure of how much was altered in the language translations. However, a large part of the goodwill I have towards Final Cut is in what I assumed to be originality, which appears at second glance to be either borrowed or reimagined depending on how one looks at it. Whatever the case, I do not think being based on a preexisting title is a total dealbreaker. Michael Hazanavicius crafts a movie that virtually screams for a rewatch, and that is a commendable feat in and of itself. Disposable entertainment is more common nowadays than not, with films worthy of a second glance becoming slimmer as the sheer array of content rises higher and high. Final Cut manages to impress at every turn, particularly when it comes to the final act.

It is not often one can claim that a zombie film left them smiling ear to ear when it concluded, but Final Cut accomplishes just that. A stunning final shot leaves the viewer on a soaring high that carries into the credits. I have no doubt this will be a movie that alienates people, but love it or hate it, Hazanavicius ultimately takes the audience on a memorable ride. Part found footage thriller, part meta moviemaking dark comedy, Final Cut improvs its way into your heart.

Final Cut screened at 2022’s Cannes International Film Festival.

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