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‘Final Cut’ never overcomes stuffy premise

Sci-fi thriller stars Robin Williams at his most dour
/ Source: The Associated Press

The moody little sci-fi thriller “The Final Cut” feels more like a science class experiment than cinema.

The premise is stuffy and arcane, and the muted performances of Robin Williams and his co-stars fail to reverberate with any sense that these could be real events happening to real people.

The movie’s central artifice, that implants record every moment of a person’s life and are used to craft Hallmark moment highlights reels at their funerals, is intriguing in the abstract, a fun discussion topic over a beer or three.

Woven into a story, the concept continually unravels throughout the movie, the seams of its dramatic conceit showing sloppily in almost every frame. This is not an idea with resonance you can feel in your gut, like aliens coming down to boot us off the planet or machines deciding to take over the world.

First-time writer-director Omar Naim never manages to make the tale feel relevant, or even remotely plausible. Muddying things further, Naim and his crew present the story in a weird fusion of eras as sets, costumes and props from decades past co-exist with technology that’s years in the future.

The world of the film does not have the authentic retro-fashion texture of “Blade Runner” or “Brazil.” The visual mishmash in “The Final Cut” jars, further distancing viewers from the universe Naim creates.

Williams plays Alan Hakman, the name itself heavy-handed given that he’s the finest “cutter” in the business, a hack who sorts through the life footage of the deceased to present a bowdlerized “Rememory” compilation, discarding all the ugly moments.

Dark memoriesAlan’s torment over a dark childhood memory of his own is rekindled by an image he sees in the footage of his current client, an executive for the company that developed the implants.

The job also puts Alan in the sights of implant opponents, led by former colleague Fletcher (Jim Caviezel) who’s desperate to obtain the executive’s memories hoping to find sinister secrets to provoke a scandal and discredit the industry.

Protesters gather outside “Rememory” funerals with signs and inane chants of “Live for today,” rushing at Alan with fierce cries of “There’s the cutter!” The scene has the ferociousness of clashes outside abortion clinics, yet Naim’s screenplay offers only hazy hints of why memory implants are viewed as such a societal evil.

Fletcher finally explains to an extent, that it’s an invasion of others’ privacy when they’re captured on someone’s implant footage. But it’s a feebly presented argument, and Fletcher’s sweeping contention that “implants destroy personal history, and therefore all history” rings hollow.

Deadly dull early on, “The Final Cut” gains momentum and builds suspense near the end as Alan scrambles to unlock his memories while Fletcher and his cohorts close in. Yet it comes too late to pull the audience back into the story.

Tossed in to little effect are Mira Sorvino as an antique-book dealer in an unsatisfying romance with the cold, stoic Alan, and Mimi Kuzyk as a fellow cutter who helps Alan uncover the truth about the boyhood tragedy that shaped his monastic nature.

Williams is at his most dour here. His performance is solid but void of humanity.

One of Naim’s points is that only an inhumanly dispassionate person might bear roving among the vilest crannies of other people’s minds. That emotional parsimony makes Alan a thoroughly forgettable protagonist, though.