Ironically enough, Judge David Johnson grew impatient with this film. (Hint: The irony is related to the title of the film.)
Every miracle has its price.
And that price? One hour and 40 minutes of your pathetic little life.
Facts of the Case
Two med school students, Cameron (Alex Feldman) and Willy (Jason Scott Campbell) are driving through a rural town when they stop at a bar and hear an incredible story. The sheriff tells the patrons that old Doc Green (Bill Cobbs) apparently lifted a two-ton tractor off a boy with one hand. Intrigued, Cameron and Willy seek out Doc Green and his dilapidated farm. What he tells them blows their mind.
Turns out Doc Green has some interesting info about a group of Chinese monks that developed a strength-enhancing herbal supplement. The good doctor found a way to duplicate the potion and has been sucking it down since. The results: he never gets sick and can bench-press farm equipment. Unfortunately, his wife hasn't had quite the same reaction, and the boys find out the hard way that the serum has some negative side effects, far worse than headaches and irritable bowels
I found this movie interesting. Not necessarily entertaining, but interesting. Made on a vanishingly small budget, this indie thriller shows promise and delivers an active—if confusing—horror-like finale, but some serious pacing issues hamper the overall experience.
Frankly, there's just way too much talking. And it's all static dialogue, featuring characters sitting around a bar or a kitchen table, delivering exposition by the bale-load. The idea of a super-secret Chinese supplement that grants an old geezer the power to lift a tractor with his bare hands has potential, but the tactic to reveal every single detail—often excruciating in nature—through endless conversation in an unchanging milieu is a severe misstep. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if someone thought the film is really an adaptation of a play. Budget constraints? Sure, that's a feasible excuse and I'll grant that as an explanation for such a bland palette of settings, but that sympathy card has only so much mileage. No matter what the financial statements read, the fact is that not much happens besides a lot of talking until the final 10 minutes.
The good news is that the actors chosen to talk a lot are good at what they do. Cobbs is a seasoned pro and someone you'll immediately recognize as "that guy who was in that movie." Feldman and Campbell do well in the thankless roles of exposition sponges, though Feldman as the jackass Cameron has a more entertaining character to work with. If the acting were amateur hour then The Final Patient would be torturous, but because the work is across-the-board solid, the incessant dialoguing is a bit easier to swallow.
Now about the finale: the film drastically changes gears here, almost instantaneously switching from a low-key, plot-heavy talkie to full-blown horror flick, with jump scenes and grisly killings and a zombie-looking mutant freak. The tonal shift is jarring, but the scenes are filmed with panache and the Doc's wife—who isn't revealed until the end—is a gross construct. The whole thing adds a needed jolt to the proceedings, but you'll have to seriously suspend your disbelief as any explanation on a) why she looks like a monster and b) what her frickin' problem is. And that's ultimately the most frustrating aspect of the film, the lack of clarity. After so much screen time devoted to explanation and plot disgorgement, the lack of a satisfying payoff to the story is a major sticking point.
Echo Bridge, a studio that's been scooping up films languishing in oblivion, has been doing well with its releases, and The Final Patient is the best I've seen out of the studio. The video quality (anamorphic widescreen) is sharp and both a Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mix accompany. Granted, there's not a lot for the surround sound to do until the end, but you always like to see studios take the audio portion seriously. Of the extras, the director's commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes were the most interesting, offering a look at the challenges of making a movie on the cheap.
If you like having your stories told to you, you might enjoy The Final Patient. The visual medium is really only put to use during the big ending.
Eh, the bench is offended, but it is confused. Guess that'd be a guilty verdict then.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
• Director's Commentary
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