Dir: Campbell Scott. US. 2001. 111mins.
Campbell Scott, who co-directed the hit Big Night in 1996 with Stanley Tucci, finally gets back behind the camera with Final, the fourth digital video production from IFC-backed IndiGent after Bruce Wagner's Women In Film, Richard Linklater's Tape and Ethan Hawke's Chelsea Walls. Unlike Chelsea Walls and Tape, it won't get a theatrical release domestically through rights-holder Lions Gate Films, which is understandable given its theatricality and disproportionate length, but a shame considering the many rewards it offers - from its claustrophobic atmosphere and strong performances by Denis Leary and Hope Davis to a central plot twist which comes as a genuine shock.
It's a good example of how digital video can be used to make a cost-effective film reliant on the intrigue of its story and development of its characterisations, and not special effects, myriad locations or large cast. Would that Scott had matched his leanness of setting with some ruthless cutting and a tight running time and Final might have gained more exposure than on the festival circuit or video shelf.
The film is eventually a science fiction film of sorts but begins as something of a puzzle. Denis Leary plays Bill, a man who wakes from a coma in a hospital ward. Hope Davis plays Ann, the medical psychologist brought in to evaluate him and whether he should be released. Bill has flashbacks about his father dying and crashing his car in a quarry, and is convinced that he has been cryogenically frozen for decades and re-awoken in order to be killed.
The two have several confrontational sessions but develop a friendship, possibly a sexual attraction to each other. However, all is not as it appears. There is more to Bill's suspicions than he or we have been led to believe.
Scott creates an absorbing mystery out of the relationship between the two characters, and Leary has never given such an intelligent dramatic performance as the trapped paranoid. Davis - who has been consistently excellent in films such as Mumford, Arlington Road and Next Stop Wonderland - is also fine as the doctor under intense pressure for reasons we only find out late in the story.
Prod co InDigEnt
US dist Lions Gate Films
Exec prod Jonathan Sehring, Caroline Kaplan, John Sloss
Prods Mary Frances Budig, Steve Dunn, Campbell Scott
Scr Bruce McIntosh
Ed Andy Keir
Music Linda Cohen, Guy Davis
Main cast Denis Leary, Hope Davis, Guy Davis