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How much you like Final might well depend on your feelings for Denis
Leary. Less an actor than a marketable personality-type, Leary radiates a self-absorbed
tetchiness thats couched as wild-and-crazy rebelliousness. He often seems on the
verge of breaking character in mid-speech and announcing that he cant recite another
word of this crappy dialogue. With his chiseled looks and air of curried disaffection, he
projects a manic inner world, but one without much heart or depth; you dont need to
be told that he broke into show business as a comedian because its written all over
him. And in Final his archness is pushed to the
breaking point. So much of the movie consists of him rattling off riffs and harangues in
close-up that his personality tightens around you like a straightjacket.
Leary plays a man named Bill, who wakes up one day in the observation ward of a psychiatric hospital. Ann (Hope Davis), the doctor whos been assigned his case, tells him that he was found unconscious in a rock quarry. But Billsporting a buzz-cut that makes him look like Jim on Taxihas his own take on how he came to be there. He claims to be the victim of a cryogenics experiment, that hes been asleep for 400 years, and that the hospital workers are preparing him for the finala lethal injection hes to receive in 48 hours so that his organs might be used for purposes unknown. Interlaced with flashbacks to Bills past, the first hour of Final is a long cat-and-mouse game between Bill and Ann, as he challenges her role in what hes convinced will be a physician-assisted murder.
Campbell Scott makes his solo directorial debut with Final, but its such a dour, lackluster effort that youd never suspect he had a hand in the robust Big Night. Scotts glacial pacing hangs silences like a leaden yoke around Bruce McIntoshs deliberately simplistic dialogue, and his purely functional style turns the film into a lifeless vacuum. Where Big Nights use of music was rousing and elegant, Finals R&B-flavored guitar and harmonica are at first distracting and finally teeth-grating. Learys dynamic nut routine is expected to hold things together, which means that we have to watch him shouting out drill cadences, smoking imaginary cigarettes, hurling himself into a brick wall like a fullback, doing Elvis impersonations, and pretending hes in a noisy blues bar. In places, youll be wishing for a lethal injection.
Final makes an unexpected left-turn halfway through its running time. It doesnt fully recover (it cant, not after that fatal opening hour), but it does improve when we learn that Bill isnt totally out of his treethat theres some truth to his conspiracy-centered ravings. The movie changes from a repetitious two-character play into a cautionary sci-fi flick with a budget so low it can only afford its ideas, but at least Anns personal and professional crises take the spotlight away from Bills rambling monologues.
Its not enough, though. McIntoshs half-formed thoughts about free will and big government are never articulated beyond the fact that he likes the former and mistrusts the latter. The central relationship never comes alive, partly because Ann is such an inexpressive dishrag of a woman that you dont believe her when she says shes living a nightmare, and partly because theres too many moonshine moments like the one where Bill makes her sing Rally Round the Flag to him. Final is deadly all right, but in all the wrong ways.
- Tom Block