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Final (February 18/03)

Final marks Campbell Scott's first solo attempt behind the camera (he co-directed Big Night with Stanley Tucci), and if this is any indication, either he should just stick to acting or keep on directing films with the help of others.

But to be fair, even the most experienced director would've had their work cut out for them in trying to film Bruce McIntosh's terminally dull screenplay. An odd melodrama/sci-fi hybrid, Final casts Denis Leary as a hospital patient named Bill - who's convinced it's the future. Bill's under the impression that 400 years ago, he was frozen and now everyone around him is pretending it's the late 20th century. He's assigned a doctor named Ann Johnson (Hope Davis), a sympathetic sort who tries to get to the real reason behind Bill's delusion.

It's a chamber piece, with the majority of the film's action occurring in a dilapidated psych ward. It's also the latest movie from Indigent Pictures, a group that's offered up miniscule budgets for films to be shot on digital video. The combination of the shoddy location and cheapie visual presentation makes for an exceedingly unpleasant movie if only on a purely visceral level. The continued use of digital video baffles me; though it's meant to convey a feeling of intimacy, it's more distracting than anything else. Some films, such as Session 9, shot with this format are able to overcome this handicap through strong material, but that's certainly not the case here. That this semi-interesting premise has been stretched incredibly thin over the course of close to two hours certainly doesn't help. Final clearly would've worked a lot better as a short, as the film is chock full of repetitiveness and pointlessly arty interludes.

But the film does boast Leary's finest performance to date, playing a character that's wholly unlike anything he's attempted before. Bill is someone we're not entirely sure about until towards the end, and Leary does a good job of keeping us off-balance. Likewise, Hope Davis is quite effective as the initially clinic doc who eventually finds herself falling for Bill. As capable as they are, though, they're unable to elevate the lame screenplay. Excluding a fairly interesting twist towards the end, there's nothing in the script we haven't seen before. The majority of the film comes off as a third-rate student play - albeit with a better caliber of actor. And hard as he tries, Scott's lofty visual ambitions (quick edits, disorienting flashbacks, etc) just seem out of place in such a talky picture.

Final is an all-around mess. Campbell Scott, last seen dominating the screen in Roger Dodger, makes for a much better actor than he does director. But with a concept this idiotic, Martin Scorsese himself would've been hard-pressed to transform it into something watchable.

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