‘Final Cut’ Review – ‘One Cut of the Dead’ Remake Isn’t Original, but It Is Funny and Heartfelt [Fantasia]

Remakes of popular films are inevitable, particularly when a film with a unique high concept takes off. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a title like 2017’s One Cut of the Dead, Shin’ichirō Ueda’s horror comedy about a film crew making a horror flick that’s beset by zombies, is already receiving a remake.

The original Japanese film was incredibly well received when it came out. Rightfully so: it’s fun and clever, in addition to being a marvelous ode to overcoming challenges and the power of filmmaking. It’s a genuine feel-good crowd-pleaser.

The hand-wringing that accompanies a remake, particularly a popular foreign film, is that the new version will lose sight of what made the original so special. Add to this the fact that One Cut of the Dead is such a recent film, and it makes sense that the French remake Final Cut, aka Coupez (2022), was met with a healthy dose of skepticism when it was announced.

On the surface, the remake adopts the same general premise and narrative structure: Remi (Romain Duris), a hack director whose motto is “fast and cheap”, is recruited by his producer Mounir (Lyes Salem) to film a one-take 30-minute zombie film for a new genre channel Z. Unfortunately there’s no shortage of large personalities and calamities threatening to disrupt or even derail the production, as evidenced by the opening act of the film, which documents the finished result before flashing back to show how it all (barely) comes together.

Thankfully writer/director Michel Hazanavicius (Oscar winner for The Artist)’s take on the material manages to balance a reverence to One Cut while also introducing several new elements. One new wrinkle for the French production is producer Madame Matsuda (Yoshiko Takehara)’s insistence that the show stick to the original Japanese script. This is arguably one of the film’s strongest creative decisions: Final Cut actually acknowledges its status as a remake, and even briefly includes footage of the original One Cut. The judicious use of footage wisely doesn’t overstay its welcome (there’s an inherent risk of reminding your audience that they could be watching the original), but the sly wink feels like Hazanavicius’ attempt to reassure doubting naysayers that he’s aware of how beloved the original is.

The acclaimed director wisely doesn’t muck around with elements that Ueda perfected, which results in several characters and conflicts being carried over wholesale. Nadia (Bérénice Bejo)’s tendency to lose herself in her roles is a major obstacle, as well as Jonathan (Raphaël Quenard)’s tempermental stomach and Philippe (Grégory Gadebois)’ struggle with sobriety. All of these challenges threaten the completion of the ambitious project, while minor (new) hiccups such as the aforementioned Japanese script lead to clever and amusing recurring gags.

Some elements, such as famed starlet Ava (Matilda Lutz)’s concerns about her public persona, are also carried over but fail to pay off, while new characters like sound engineer Fatih (Jean-Pascal Zadi), whose escalating confusion as the production veers wildly off course, offers plenty of laughs.

The original conceit, in which the audience first watches the finished result – with all of its awkward pauses and delayed reactions – plays just as well in French as in Japanese. The film’s silly humor remains its key selling feature, though some jokes may get lost in translation (anglophones may be puzzled if a character’s name is the whole joke or if they’re missing something). One unique cultural element that accompanies the move to France is an increased number of toilet and race jokes. So Jonathan’s digestive distress plays longer and louder, while Remi’s awkward interactions with the Japanese producers yield several uncomfortable chuckles.

The film’s successes aren’t enough to dismiss criticisms that there’s no need for a remake, but complaints that the new film is a pale imitation or an uninspired retread aren’t accurate, either. While Final Cut never fully escapes the shadow of its masterful predecessor to establish itself as its own unique thing, the comedy, heart and celebration of filmmaking still make the new version worth recommending.

Final Cut won’t be revolutionary to audiences who have seen One Cut of the Dead, but the new take on a familiar concept is still funny and heartfelt.

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