Final Cut Review: Boo To Whoever Thought They Could Remake One Cut Of The Dead [Cannes]

No matter what anyone says, the zombie genre is far from dead. Every couple of years we still get a brilliant new take on the genre that adds something new or at least fun, from "Train to Busan," to "Anna and the Apocalypse," to the incredible love letter to DYI filmmaking, "One Cut of the Dead."

The micro-budget Japanese horror-comedy was made for $25,000, with a cast of unknown actors and an independent director who had only done one other feature before. Yet the film charmed audiences with its hilarious, gory tale of a group of intrepid filmmakers making a zombie movie that descends into chaos when actual zombies attack, and became a bonafide hit, with our own Jacob Hall calling it "the best zombie comedy in years."

A small-budget indie hit is just the kind of alluring bait that makes money-hungry executives drool at the thought of replicating that success, but instead of a Hollywood remake with big stars, it is Oscar-winning Michel Hazanavicius who came crawling at the chance to replicate the success of "The Artist." It makes some sort of sense, then, that after pulling out of the Sundance 2022 lineup the moment it went virtual, Hazanavicius' "Final Cut" would open the biggest festival in the world, with Cannes 2022 kicking off with a film about the art of filmmaking.

A Zombie Movie Gone Wrong

"Final Cut" is in essence a shot-for-shot remake of "One Cut of the Dead," and it begins once again with an uninterrupted extended take of a film crew making a zombie movie on cursed grounds that get attacked by real zombies, derailing the entire production. Whether in the original or the remake, this opening is the film's biggest magic trick — a cheap, badly acted, terribly shot cold open that nevertheless has huge payoffs.

Romain Duris plays Higurashi, a director so committed to getting believable performances out of his actors that he performs a ritual that makes the zombies real. Without spoiling the trick, things explode into a chaotic, messy, often hilarious, and ultimately heartwarming love letter to bootstraps filmmaking. This is a movie about the joy of gathering a bunch of your pals and just going to some abandoned building and making a movie, about the stress of having to put out fires every five minutes and the joy of coming up with solutions on the fly. It's a movie about the people who give a crap about a movie when everyone keeps saying it's a crappy movie.

A Soulless Recreation

The problem is Hazanavicius is not a bootstrap filmmaker, not anymore at least, and this movie is by no means a DIY film. It has a $4 million budget, and a cast that includes Oscar-nominee Bérénice Bejo, and that seems to betray the film's intentions, with more polished cinematography, an overly saturated color palette, and a more restrained camera. This makes "Final Cut" feel like a rejection of the "everything goes!" spirit of creativity of the original, like a planned and carefully composed project devoid of the visible and infectious fun of collaboration from "One Cut of the Dead" that makes you want to pick up a camera yourself. 

The film even adds a bunch of Western references, like constantly comparing an actor to "French Adam Driver" that feel forced and poorly thought out. It's almost like a committee trying to mass-produce a kid's kindergarten art project. Rather than a celebration of making something with the resources you have, it ends up like a rich person's idea of DIY and entirely missing the point, like all the celebrities who praised "Parasite" for the wrong reasons, or Mr. Beast's multimillion-dollar real-life "Squid Game" YouTube competition.

A Poorly Executed Idea

A shot-for-shot remake in a different language isn't inherently a bad thing — the 1931 Spanish-language "Dracula" is at times better than the original, and Michael Haneke's "Funny Games" successfully translates its tale of horror without losing any of the original's impact. Having this movie play at a festival as big as Cannes certainly helps in bringing this wonderful story to an even bigger audience

The problem is that the film tries to have its cake and eat it too, as "Final Cut" both recreates the entirety of the original, and also adds a layer of meta-commentary about it being a remake. On top of the bizarre B-movie quality of the opening act is the fact that, despite this being a French remake with French actors, the characters have Japanese names and talk about the bizarre experiments the Japanese army did during WWII on ... a Parisian facility.

"Final Cut" acknowledges that it is remaking a highly successful Japanese film, even building "One Cut of the Dead" into its universe, which makes zero sense and completely breaks immersion with how little sense it makes. Without spoiling much, it is one thing to make an audience believe Aurora Borealis can happen at this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within a kitchen, and another to make them believe it can happen again in the exact same way in another kitchen. This film adds another 20 minutes to the original's runtime while doing extremely little with them, and there's even a corny reference to the Cannes film festival which takes you out of the story.

Just Go Watch The Original

Still, not all of it is terrible. There is one recurring joke about an executive simply not caring about the optics of whitewashing Japanese characters, and the addition of Jean-Pascal Zadi as a composer making music on the fly while slowly losing his mind as things get out of control is hilarious (the real score is composed by an always great Alexandre Desplat).

When "Final Cut" works, it's mostly because it just repeats what "One Cut of the Dead" did, and as ill-conceived as this film is, the jokes still land. Of course, that only says more about the success of the original film than this one. The problem is that, outside of the French market, it is hard to recommend this movie to anyone. For general audiences in the U.S. who have not seen the original, if you're going to recommend them to watch a subtitled movie with actors they don't know, why would you recommend the remake?

Despite being a shot-for-shot remake, "Final Cut" does remove one important part of the original: a credits sequence showing how the film got made, showcasing both the artistry and the labor of love that makes films possible. Without it, "Final Cut" is not a window into the world of filmmaking aimed at inspiring a new generation, but a look down from a pedestal that says only the privileged can play with these toys. And that is the biggest sin this movie could commit.

/Film Rating: 4 out of 10

"Final Cut" premiered as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2022.

Read this next: Batman Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

The post Final Cut Review: Boo to Whoever Thought They Could Remake One Cut of the Dead [Cannes] appeared first on /Film.