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Saturday, Sept. 9, 2000


With friends like this, who needs enemies?

"Taking the piss" is a British term for being funny at someone else's expense. It's just a friendly stab at humor and nothing to get upset about, says my Brit mate Ian. Ian is an artist at taking the piss. He can be caustic, sardonic, outright mean, he can reduce the faint-hearted to tears of anguish. And just when someone in the room is debating whether to strike Ian down with a blunt instrument, he grins and drawls: "Awww, go on mate, I was jes takin' the piss out of ye!"

But even Ian is no match for the director/writer duo of Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis as they pull down their flies and proceed to take a good long piss at the entire world in a movie called "Final Cut." Loaded to the gills with rudeness, lewdness and crudeness, "Final Cut" is shameless and would probably cause Ian to kneel in a state of abject worship. This is a movie that has no excuses, and doesn't pretend to. It's deliberately and maliciously bad.

Starring Jude Law and his real-life wife, Sadie Frost, as themselves, "Final Cut" is a fictional documentary that starts with Jude's sudden death. After the funeral, Sadie invites all their old friends over for drinks and reminiscing. They include: Sadie's own sister Holly; her husband, John (who's in a wheelchair); actor Ray Winstone and his wife, Lisa; Dominic Anciano; and Ray Burdis. The scene is set in the living room of Jude and Sadie's house and as everyone converses in low tones about what a great guy Jude was, Sadie makes an announcement. Apparently, Jude was making a private video before his demise, and it is her strong wish, as his widow, to have everyone see it.

The video reveals that Jude was an unscrupulous cad who had a passion for spying on his nearest and dearest. He hid cameras all over the house and took them to pubs, recording the most intimate and private moments of friends and family who, ironically, are all professional actors. Examples include: Lisa sitting on the toilet and looking philosophical; Holly stealing "someone's wallet" and extracting the contents; John having sex with a prostitute; Jude, Ray and Dominic fighting over dope; and Ray (Winstone) coming on to Sadie and pretending not to care when she says no.

Naturally, everyone is shocked, both by Jude's secret hobby and one another. Given that human beings are weak and make mistakes, Jude's camera -- especially the one in the bathroom -- reveals that his "friends" are actually the kind of wankers that make the cast from "Trainspotting" look like blushing violets. Especially when they're using the bathroom. (After "Final Cut" you may want to think twice about who you allow in there, within reach of hampers and clean towels.)

As the afternoon wears on, it's clear that no matter what any of them may say or do, it's not going to change the fact that they're cretins, and Sadie hates them. Still, none of them are prepared for the last five minutes of Jude's tape, which records the event of his murder.

Anciano and Burdis worked as a producer team before making this directorial debut. Low budget and made among friends, "Final Cut" is in many ways a testimonial to the casual/liberal atmosphere that surrounds U.K. filmmaking. That the story itself turns out to be so hateful is their special touch.

Interestingly, none of the cast members seem to care that their characters bear their own names -- and how this could damage their reps. Law, for instance, is now the resident Mr. Gorgeous of Hollywood, but in "Final Cut" he seems nothing more than a two-bit actor with a coke habit. As for Winstone, after this it's hard to imagine him being invited to parties or offered any nice-guy roles. Along with "The War Zone" (now playing), this picture seals his image as a lying, sneaking, abusive klutz with the kind of face you never want to see in a dark alley.

The awful part of it is: "Final Cut" is brilliant, like a precision spitball aimed at the face of Hollywood. It satisfies all the base movie-going instincts (the craving for voyeurism, violence and a protracted unhappy ending). It throws everything out the window just to draw out that shaky, black laughter that comes with piss-taking. And unlike Ian's jokes, there are no warnings and no apologies.

"Final Cut" is playing at the Shibuya Cinema Society.

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