Review: Final

Most impressive here is the deft unraveling of the film’s conspiracy theory and the tongue-in-cheek approach to euthanasia.

Photo: Cowboy Pictures

Last week I received a frightening letter from an overzealous K-PAX fan who apparently let the good-heartedness of the film’s message fly over her head. “May God have mercy on your soul,” her letter began. Here I was thinking that God had class when, instead, he was reserving heaven for those fond of Hollywood schmaltz. Kafka meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in Campbell Scott’s Final, a sci-fi curio about a man who believes he was cryogenically frozen in the year 1999 and has reawakened 400 years into the future. Scott’s spare flashbacks establish Bill’s (Denis Leary) father fixation while simultaneously setting up the snowy accident that seemingly landed him in the Summer Hospital in Connecticut. Anne (Hope Davis), his doctor, bonds with the patient and promises that he’ll be discharged once he is cured of his madness. Scott and screenwriter Bruce McIntosh refuse to emphasize the is-he-or-isn’t-he lines of Bill’s insanity while successfully serving up a subtle twist ending that doesn’t so much shock as much at it carefully rewrites the film’s text. If K-PAX makes light of insanity, Final is perhaps relentless to a fault. The film (think a decaffeinated version of Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom) isn’t particularly profound or enlightening though Scott’s claustrophobic direction is alleviated by Leary and Davis’s unhysterical performances. Scott’s use of blood is chilling, but never quite as impressive as the deft unraveling of the film’s conspiracy theory and the tongue-in-cheek approach to euthanasia. The film’s apocalyptic curveball sheds light on peculiar behaviors and patient/doctor relationships while hauntingly crippling Bill and Anne’s relationship.

 Cast: Denis Leary, Hope Davis, J.C. MacKenzie, Jim Gaffigan, Jim Hornyak, Maureen Anderman, Marin Hinkle  Director: Campbell Scott  Screenwriter: Bruce McIntosh  Distributor: Cowboy Pictures  Running Time: 111 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2001  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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