A Genuine Oddity & An Australian Snuff Sleaze Classic
First off, get this dingbat cracker Bayou action movie out of my face. The IMDb has two different movies confused here as being the same thing. One is a psychological thriller from Australia, the other an American made crackerfest. Please sort them out, both movies are being done a disservice by the confusion.
Next, FINAL CUT or DEATHGAMES, the Australian film by a relatively unknown filmmaker named Ross Dimsey, is perhaps that country's softcore answer to "Emanuelle In America" -- A psychological thriller inspired by and dealing with the urban legend of the Snuff Movie. Others have succinctly summed up the plot: Journalist couple find themselves enmeshed in a web of otherwise boring intrigue & decadence surrounding an Australian media magnate (played by character actor David Clendenning, who is magnificent) who may or may not be inspired by/based on Rupert Murdoch. He is insanely rich, somewhat arrogant, prone to practical jokes, and likes to mess with people's heads as a way of "relaxing". He has a former porn star mistress, a yacht filled with beautiful 20 year old groupies, and a rooftop penthouse apartment where he can engage in all kinds of games with the people he feels like screwing with.
Enter the couple (leggy Jennifer Cluff and Aussie cult figure Lou Brown from ALLISON'S BIRTHDAY), who are under the impression they are going to make a documentary about Clendenning's "Dominick", and end up instead being his new game pieces after being invited to his swank penthouse for a weekend of binge drinking, parlor games, casual nudity, voyeurism, lesbian seduction, homosexual undertones, forced drug use, acid spiked booze, a gun, and possibly a murder or three -- all of it filmed or recorded on video for Dominick's own personal amusement, blackmail leverage, and possible syndication if it proves "juicy" enough. It's hard to tell exactly what happens, and the deliberate pacing of the film works against the viewer sorting it all out. This is of course annoying to literal minded viewers used to routine plot formulas, and commenters have made reference to the film's lack of action or payoff without understanding that such is the point of the whole film. It is a puzzle, and some people simply hate puzzles.
The movie isn't about the cat and mouse game that Dominick plays with his young guests, but rather about the whole concept of media manipulation, representation of identity, and the loss of will that is the price of celebrity fame. One of the most interesting characters in the film is Mick, a failed rock star who has been relegated to the role of Dominick's flunky. The price of selling his soul for popularity, maybe, and the nicely understated payoff of the film might very well be the indication that Dominick has failed to understand that Mick might want it back.
In all honesty I will concede that the movie is not entirely successful, partly because it wants to have it's cake & eat it to, so to speak. It is too delighted with simply being an enigma and guilty of deliberately keeping it's viewers confused as to exactly what they have seen, though I will argue vehemently that it is never "boring". Even after a couple dozen screenings of both the American print called DEATH GAMES as well as the original version called FINAL CUT, I am not sure if anyone actually dies during the story's scant 80 minutes of runtime. In many ways the film resembles David Lynch's masterpiece MULHOLLAND DR., and may correctly be interpreted as a "waking dream" of a filmmaker rather than a story with a single unambiguous meaning. Ideas are shuffled, events repeat themselves, effects precede causes, people appear to die only to walk back on screen with little or no fanfare, and the concluding images resemble someone waking from a troubling nightmare more than outright horror at having witnessed murder & revenge. I haven't the foggiest idea what it all means, except that I detest any kind of art that discourages viewers from thinking about it beyond the experience of witnessing it, and here is a movie that doesn't, though almost to a fault.
8/10: You can find old rental tapes of DEATH GAMES for about a nickle plus media mail. It may not be Van Damme material, but for viewers with a taste for something different you will be very well rewarded.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?