Williams’ overlooked sci-fi drama makes the cut

After Robin Williams’ unsettling character in “One Hour Photo” and straight-out bizarre casting in “Death to Smoochy,” I was somewhat skeptical of what I would find in the no-name thriller “The Final Cut.” But I couldn’t resist a good sci-fi, and while Williams’ shift to the quiet and disturbing roles is somewhat less welcoming than his lovable Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams characters, there is no arguing that he does a good creepy character.

In a futuristic world, expectant parents can implant a Zoe Chip in their unborn child, which will record everything that baby sees and hears for the rest of its life. When the individual dies, a “cutter” edits the footage into a one-and-half hour movie shown at a “Rememory” service for friends and family.

It turns out that “The Final Cut” is actually a step back toward the more charming of Williams’ characters. He plays the reclusive Alan Hackman, the best cutter in the business. Despite being known for his willingness to absolve his clients of their wrongdoings by leaving given parts of their lives out of the Rememory film, Alan evokes a certain amount of sympathy. Haunted by events of his early childhood, he sees his profession as a quest to absolve himself of his transgressions by absorbing the sins of the dead through his silence. But his vow to keep the sins of even the most wicked people quiet has turned him into a cold, unemotional being, unable to relate to even the one woman interested in him.

As he is cutting the Rememory for a high-profile client, a man who has much to hide, Alan comes across a face that has haunted him his entire life. Meanwhile, a wayward cutter comes out of hiding, determined to get his hands on the footage from Alan’s client, as they are the only way to substantiate the crimes he was involved in. Alan refuses to turn in his client’s footage, not because of the code he is avowed to, but because the footage holds a clue to his childhood traumas.

“The Final Cut” offers an interesting glimpse into a controversial and dark future. It deals with the social implications of having direct access to the hidden truths of those who have taken their sins to the grave, and addresses the question of people’s right to privacy and right to their own memories.

The movie’s dark setting and mood is fitting. The only obvious weakness is the casting of Mira Sorvino as Alan’s romantic interest. While it is obvious why Williams’ character would be interested in the young librarian, there seems to be no explainable reason for any interest on her part. It’s a bizarre match, and an even stranger relationship, in view of Alan’s obsession with his work combined with a high degree of social ineptitude.

Nonetheless, “The Final Cut” is a thought-provoking movie, worth the rental fee. It’s setting in a not-so-distant future makes it difficult for the viewer to simply brush it off as fantasy. It makes you wonder what lies ahead. Meanwhile, despite Robin Williams’ aptitude for disturbing characters, I am looking forward to seeing him back in drag for a more lighthearted time in Mrs. Doubtfire 2.