Final Kill

Molded from the mangiest cuts in the market, Final Kill feels like a meatball-sub mashup of Midnight Run, Grosse Pointe Blank and, rather incongruously, You Were Never Really Here. Indeed, there’s more virtuosity found in the handiwork of even the most disinterested sandwich artist and easily more sanitary discipline. Rarely has any film felt like a (barely) feature-length equivalent of scratched balls.

Mickey Rome is a cop-turned-mercenary with a head full of bad memories and a prostate the size of … well, no official word on that a la Maury Ballstein from Zoolander. But Mickey certainly does seem fixated on posteriors. Mickey is one of about a dozen bald dudes with beards in this movie, but the only one played by Ed Morrone — an actor who fancies himself a second coming of sharp-tongued swagger a la Billy Bob Thornton but comes off as a fourth-rate Denis Leary in a Joe Rogan bro body.

There is, at least, a tangential connection to COVID-19 headlines in Final Kill (which hit VOD services on March 6) as the first scene features Dr. Drew Pinsky — noted epidemiological expert on coronaviruses and <checks notes> long-time interlocutor on questions about twentysomethings’ genital warts. He plays Dr. Metzger, Mickey’s psychiatrist, who knows only that Mickey “occasionally transports things and protects stuff” during his stressful job and is ready to prescribe Prozac.

Mickey will have none of that. “You shrinks just want to unlock some superpower in people’s souls so they can go home and fuck their wives better or find the courage to admit that they’re gay!” he barks, establishing writer-director Justin Lee’s creative limitations in record time.

A flashback shootout that appears to have been filmed with beachgoers just around the rocks informs us that Mickey has lost a step or 12. But that doesn’t stop him from getting One Last Job to protect the Bauers, a milquetoast married couple on the run after embezzling money from the Fratelli crime family (quelle d’homage, Mr. Lee) to pay for a parent’s medical needs. It’s here that Final Kill establishes its only brief flirtation with anything besides amorphousness — suggesting that the navigation of a craven, cracked American healthcare system is perhaps as treacherous, in its own way, as going mano a mano with a mobster’s masked men.

Look, you rent something called Final Kill because you chuckle at the presumed collective marquee value of Dr. Drew Pinsky, Danny Trejo, Randy Couture and Billy Zane. It’s hard to imagine a less-appealing pivot than the one Final Kill takes into a chamber piece of one colorless conversation after another between Mickey and the Bauers — whom I’ll presume are played by producers’ friends who once trod the high-school boards, respectively, as Harold Hill and Sandy Olsson. The film also has that tinny digital-washout look and has been edited together (by someone named Crash Buist) to incorporate endless shots of empty spaces after characters exit the frame.

It’s not until the 58-minute mark of a 74-minute movie that there’s any true “(grunting and groaning)” or “(suspenseful music)” as the closed captions convey. Save for one unexpectedly brutal door-slam dispatch, there’s nothing memorable in the hand-to-hand stuff. And after three brief confrontations, Final Kill slams to closing credits that misspell “assistant,” toss odd special thanks to Jeff Fahey, boast aesthetics that resemble an expiring-free-trial Adobe filter and — for the love of god — yield to painful outtakes and bloopers.

Well before that, you’ll wonder if the poster image of Couture brandishing a gun is all just a ruse. (Spoiler alert: It is.) Or if the filmmakers found a cereal-box prize to cast Trejo for a 30-second role in any film. Trejo plays Francesco, an assassin who shows up in another flashback to fire a couple of rounds at Mickey in a hospital that apparently caters only to the deaf, call Mickey a pussy, and then die. Shrewd contract negotiation by Trejo here, departing the film before it really hits you that he’s in that sad ‘90s Charles Bronson phase of his career now.

You’re probably wondering why there hasn’t been more chatter about Billy Zane, whose character would be played by Gary Oldman if Final Kill were a foreign tax-shelter production of any note whatsoever. That’s because you’ve got to save the best for last. 

Who knows if Zane actually shaved his head for this or if it’s just a preternaturally strong wig game for such pestilent action cinema. But his transformation into what is essentially Joe Pantoliano is priceless. There’s also a moment where Zane wedges fruit on his nose before eating it and refers to his office as “essentially a porno set.” The outtakes reveal that Final Kill was initially called Almost Paradise. As it stands, Final Kill certainly feels like forever in your eyes. But when it comes to whatever it is Zane’s doing here, how could we ask for more?



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An award-winning film critic and features reporter, Nick has professionally written or gabbed about movies for Illinois newspapers, national syndicates, Playboy, The Art Immortal, The Film Yap and Midwest radio stations. He once drummed in a Billy Joel cover band known as Silly Joel and freely presents his Letterboxd page to engage and mock if you wish: https://letterboxd.com/ragekage79/


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