[Movie Review] FINAL CUT (COUPEZ!)

[Movie Review] FINAL CUT (COUPEZ!)

We open at the end of a chase. A twitching, groaning zombie advances toward a terrified ingénue, who shakily wields an axe and begs for her life. The zombie does what zombies do: he bites her.

And then, off-screen, a director yells “Cut.”

The scene we just watched is the final scene of a zombie movie—and the director, Higurashi, is not happy with it and even less pleased with his actors, Chinatsu (the victim) and Ken (the zombie). After throwing a tantrum in which he verbally abuses and physically accosts the actors, Higurashi storms off, leaving Chinatsu and Ken to vent their frustrations with makeup artist Natsumi. Natsumi tells them about a curse that the set’s location is rumored to be under…and then things go completely haywire.

Crew members have transformed into actual zombies. Higurashi reveals that he triggered the curse to capture the actors’ genuine fear. Suddenly, Natsumi, Chinatsu, and Ken are in a desperate fight for survival, directed and filmed by Higurashi.

Chinatsu becomes a real-life final girl after she euthanizes a zombified Ken and slaughters Higurashi in a fit of rage. Credits roll as a gore-splattered Chinatsu stands in the middle of a ritualistic pentagram painted in blood.

This, as it turns out, is also a film.


FINAL CUT’s story—its real story—is about the production of a zombie film that’s supposed to be shot in one take and broadcast live. It’s a complicated project, and so, of course, everything that can go wrong does. Cast and crew members clash on-set as well as off, personal problems interfere with people’s jobs, technical difficulties arise, and last-minute casting changes must be made.

If this plot feels familiar, it’s because FINAL CUT (directed by Michel Hazanavicius, who co-wrote it with Shin’ichirô Ueda and Ryoichi Wada) is a French remake of the 2017 Japanese zombie comedy One Cut of the Dead, which was written and directed by Ueda. While FINAL CUT (French title: COUPEZ!) is faithful to the original, it also adds another layer of meta cleverness.

The fictional film at the center of the narrative is also a remake…of the original zombie movie featured in One Cut of the Dead. Like FINAL CUT, the zombie movie remake is a French adaptation of a Japanese movie, filmed in French with French actors, while retaining the Japanese names of the characters. As an added bonus, One Cut of the Dead actor Yoshiko Takehara resurrects her original role as the producer behind the project.

Meta narratives rule all!

If you haven’t seen One Cut of the Dead, don’t fret: FINAL CUT stands on its own. The film has a compelling overarching narrative that perfectly balances slapstick comedy and genuine heartfelt moments, all tied together with hilariously frantic sequences of behind-the-scenes mayhem and desperate attempts at improvisation. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the film within a film genre, in a similar vein as 2017’s The Disaster Artist and stageplays Noises Off and Play On!

The success of FINAL CUT would not have been possible without its rock-solid cast. Romain Duris stars as beleaguered director-turned-actor Rémy (who ends up playing Higurashi), playing closely with Bérénice Bejo in the role of Rémy’s former actor wife Nadia (who plays Natsumi), and Simone Hazanavicius as their aspiring filmmaker daughter Romy (another meta bit: Simone Hazanavicius is the real-life daughter of FINAL CUT’s writer and director Michel Hazanavicius).

Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz plays the part of influencer/actor Ava and Finnegan Oldfield steps into the role of Raphaël Barrelle; in the zombie movie, their characters play Chinatsu and Ken, respectively. Also in the cast are Grégory Gadebois, Sébastian Chassagne, Raphaël Quenard, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Lyès Salem, and Luàna Bajrami.

At the heart of it, FINAL CUT is a smart and affectionate homage to filmmaking and the artists who work together to create the movies we hold near and dear to our hearts. It’s fun, it’s silly, and it’s worth three or five rewatches.

Kino Lorber has now released FINAL CUT in theaters.

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