The film won the award for best screenplay at the Deauville American Film Festival and was nominated for best film at the Sitges Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival.
A brief introduction describes "cutters", who edit the collected memories of the recently dead into feature length memorials that are viewed by loved ones at funerals. Their code forbids them to have the requisite implant or to sell memories.
The film opens with Alan Hakman as a child. While visiting a city with his parents, he meets another boy, Louis, and the two bond as they play together. Louis reluctantly joins Hakman in exploring an abandoned factory, and Hakman crosses a wooden plank suspended high above the ground. Goaded by Hakman, Louis also attempts to cross the plank, but he loses his confidence and falls. Hakman races to the ground and panics when he steps in Louis' blood. Hakman flees the scene and tells no one what happened. Later that day, he leaves the city with his parents.
Years later, Hakman (Robin Williams) is a skilled cutter who specializes in editing the memories of controversial people into hagiographies. When Fletcher (Jim Caviezel), a former cutter, confronts him at a funeral, Hakman describes himself as a sin-eater, who brings redemption to the immoral. Fletcher offers him $500,000 for the memories of his latest client, wealthy businessman Charles Bannister, but Hakman refuses. In a later meeting, Fletcher demands the memory recordings so that he can use Bannister, who he suspects was a pedophile, as a scandal to shut down EYE Tech. Hakman again refuses, and, worried for his safety, uses his knowledge from memory tapes to shake down a shady criminal for a pistol.
As Hakman works through Bannister's memories, he encounters a scene that implies that Bannister was molesting his daughter, Isabel. Hakman wordlessly deletes it and presses on. He eventually comes upon a person that he is convinced must be his childhood friend Louis. Excited, he sets up a meeting with Bannister's family to find out more information. Bannister's wife is dismissive, but Isabelle reveals that the man, recently dead of a car crash, was a teacher named Louis Hunt. Hoping that Hunt had an implant, Hakman organizes a break-in at EYE Tech, but they have no record of Hunt. Instead, Hakman finds a file on himself, which he is surprised to find documents his parents' purchase of an implant for him.
In his distress, Hakman turns to his lover, Delila. At his apartment, he shows her the equipment that he uses to view memories, and he demonstrates surreal footage from a defective implant. He leaves her alone as he seeks help from anti-implant protestors, who have discovered a way to block the implant through specialized body modification. When he returns to his apartment, he assumes that Fletcher has broken in; instead, Delila confronts him after having found memory tapes that document her prior relationship. She accuses him of voyeurism and angrily destroys his memory viewer, which results in Bannister's files also being damaged.
Fletcher and his associate finally break in, but they find nothing. Hakman tells Bannister's wife that the footage was lost in an accident, and she feigns disappointment, content to let dirty secrets stay hidden. Hakman asks his colleagues to recover live footage, a potentially deadly process. They agree, but admonish him that he can never cut memories again; a cutter with an implant is a violation of the "Cutter's code". The resulting memories show Hakman attempt to dissuade Louis from crossing the plank and stepping in red paint, not blood. Hakman, relieved, visits Hunt's grave but is confronted again by Fletcher, who has learned about Hakman's implant. After chasing Hakman through the graveyard, he hesitates and seems willing to let Hakman go; however, Fletcher's associate kills Hakman.
In the last scene, Fletcher loads Hakman's memories into a viewer and promises to use them for the greater good. As he pages through Hakman's memories, looking for evidence of Bannister's guilt, he sees Hakman watching himself in a mirror, and the memory implant lingers on the scene after Hakman has left.Robin Williams as Alan Hakman
Mira Sorvino as Delila
Jim Caviezel as Fletcher
Mimi Kuzyk as Thelma
Stephanie Romanov as Jennifer Bannister
Thom Bishops as Hasan
Genevieve Buechner as Isabel Bannister
Brendan Fletcher as Michael
Joely Collins as Legz the Tattoo Artist
Michael St. John Smith as Charles Bannister
Christopher Britton as Jason Monroe
The Final Cut premiered October 15, 2004. It grossed $548,039 domestically and $3,070,786 internationally. Lionsgate Home Entertainment released it on DVD on March 22, 2005.
The Final Cut received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 37% of 79 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 5.3/10. On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 43 out of 100 based on 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Roger Ebert rated it 3/4 stars and wrote that "the movie never really finds its way out of the dilemmas it has created", but Williams' acting saves it from these issues. Leslie Felperin of Variety wrote that it has "strong visuals" but called it cliched and poorly acted. Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that it was poorly edited and features an emotionless performance from Williams. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote the film fails to deliver on its promising premise. Daniel W. Kelly of DVD Talk rated it 4.5/5 stars and called it "an intriguing, unassuming drama with sci-fi elements that doesn't get bogged down in sci-fi overkill."