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Final Cut

An interesting cast and a potentially interesting idea both end up on the floor in "Final Cut," a vacuous exercise in self-indulgent cleverness that's like being trapped in a room for 90 minutes with your worst enemies. This film-within-a-film-within-a-film, about a bunch of actors gathered to watch a poisonous video made by a late friend, looks destined mostly for private screenings.

An interesting cast and a potentially interesting idea both end up on the floor in “Final Cut,” a vacuous exercise in self-indulgent cleverness that’s like being trapped in a room for 90 minutes with your worst enemies. This film-within-a-film-within-a-film, about a bunch of actors gathered to watch a poisonous video made by a late friend, looks destined mostly for private screenings.

With the cast playing fictionalized versions of themselves (using their real names), pic opens after the funeral of Jude (Law) with everyone gathering at the London apartment of Law’s partner, Sadie (Frost), who is filming the event. (Cutaways occasionally show the crew at work.) Jude’s final wish was for them all to watch a video he’d been making about them for the past two years, and, once Sadie pops the cassette in the VCR, the rest of the movie cross-cuts between Jude’s oeuvre and the shocked reactions of his pals.

Jude’s farewell bonne bouche turns out to be a collection of sequences shot at his apartment with hidden cameras that expose his showbiz buddies as adulterers, thieves, hypocrites and violent abusers behind their luvvy-duvvy friendliness. Only real surprise is a neat twist at the end which reveals how Jude died.

The most volcanic character, with a mouth like a sewer, is Ray (Winstone), a shaven-headed lout who freaks out when Sadie’s sister, Holly (Davidson), is revealed as having stolen money from the purse of his wife, Lisa (Marsh). Ray, however, is later shown to be both domestically violent toward Lisa and not above trying to get Sadie into bed.

Holly, a close second for the most unpleasant member of the group, is shown disparaging the sexual performance of her wheelchair-bound partner, John (Beckett), who in turn is caught pleasuring a hooker while house-sitting for the absent Jude and Sadie. And so on.

Seemingly semi-improvised by the cast (not all of whom are up to the job), though perhaps simply badly scripted, the movie exerts not a whit of compassion for its characters, all of whom are self-absorbed media-ites who fully deserve the friend’s posthumous prank. Final nail in pic’s coffin is that Jude himself is entirely unsympathetic: His (and Sadie’s) idea of a good time is substituting baking powder for his friends’ supply of coke and setting up another friend for a beating by rewriting his letter of complaint to a neighbor.

Technically, the movie is pro, on a budget. However, first-time writer-directors Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis, who also play small parts, would be best advised to revert to their day jobs as producers which have resulted, on the plus side, in “The Krays” and Philip Ridley’s “The Reflecting Skin.”

Final Cut

(DRAMA -- BRITISH)

Production: A Fugitive Features production. Produced by Dominic Anciano, Ray Burdis. Executive producer, Jim Beach. Directed, written by Dominic Anciano, Ray Burdis.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor prints) , John Ward; editor, Sam Sneade; music supervisor, John Beckett; production designer, Sabina Sattar; costume designer, Ali Brown; sound, Jon Bird. Reviewed at London Film Festival, Nov. 13, 1998. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: Ray Winstone, Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Holly Davidson, John Beckett, Mark Burdis, Perry Benson, Lisa Marsh, William Scully, Ray Burdis, Dominic Anciano.

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