It's also a very interesting film with a unique concept and an enthralling story. All of these things combine to set high expectations for The Final Patient as it enters into its climax. The high expectations aren't quite met, however, as The Final Patient collapses before truly finalizing a story that deserved a hell of an ending.
Is this a bad movie? No, it's not. However, there is such a whetting of the appetite here that it's hard not to feel let down when the film fails to truly satisfy before the closing credits.
Writers Michael J. Mainardi (who also produced) and Jerry Mainardi (who also directed) introduce us to our two focal points in the form of a couple of Med School graduates letting off some steam on a cross country drive. Jason Scott Campbell's William Jenkins is the more serious and moral of the two, whereas Alex Feldman's Cameron Streckman is the perpetual sarcastic joker whose main goal in becoming a Doctor was getting rich. As the duo passes through Jenkins' home town, however, they start to hear a strange, circulating story about a local retired Doctor who performed a miraculous rescue that, by all rights, should be completely impossible. This is just X-Files enough for Streckman to want to check the story out, at least for laughs. That's especially because Jenkins actually knew the old man years ago.
Bill Cobbs is perfect as the "Old Country Doctor" named Daniel Green, loyal husband and friend to the community. For years he's allowed the kids in the town to play on his property, even after his beloved wife Elizabeth (Lizan Mitchell) falls ill and requires constant care. One day as the kids are playing, one of them is trapped beneath the bare wheel of an old tractor and Dr. Green sprints to his rescue and lifts the old machine off of the boy's leg with seeming ease. In that the man is in his early seventies, this is both surprising to the kids and decidedly odd for the adults they tell, especially Sheriff McKnee (Guy Boyd).
Against the wishes of the Sheriff, Cameron and William start playing Scooby and Shaggy around the Green Homestead, hoping to get some dirt on what really happened. After a while they actually just ask the man point blank. What follows is an evening of conversation, beer, intrigue, chili, horror and confusion.
Confusion being the most prominent of this list. The Final Patient draws the viewer into its mythos with a number of tantalizing clues and interesting new angles. Is Dr. Daniel Green able to lift tractors like Dr. David Banner? If so, how? Where does his wife fit in with all this and what is her ailment? Unfortunately, we never fully find all this out as the final act of The Final Patient dissolves into the obscure, leaving quite a few loose ends. It's possible that the Mainardis intended this to be a mysterious ending that forces the viewer to think about the film well after its last frame. However, this doesn't come across as intentional, it comes off as rather unfinished. Personally I wanted to know a bit more, as I was interested virtually the entire time.
Quite a bit of this is due to the very fine acting of Bill Cobbs. The Final Patient proves to be at its best during the quiet moments in which the dialogue is explored and the story and back story unfolds. Although the long stretches of nothing but talking, drinking beer and eating chili might wear thin for many viewers (and, in truth, those moments did outweigh their welcome just a tad), listening to Bill Cobbs speak the Manardis' lines is akin to listening to a favorite uncle (with a deep secret) regaling us with his great stories. Still, just as the promise of the beginning of this film makes the unsatisfactory ending that much more pronounced, the fine craft of Bill Cobbs helps to reveal some of the less stellar acting flubs of Campbell and Feldman. Neither is a bad thespian, but both of them are obviously acting, whereas Cobbs himself truly seems to be Daniel Green.
The film remains above the mark with quite a lot of its technical points. This is a definite plus, especially considering the budget this film had. The Sound by Brian Jordan is steady and consistent and the Editing by the Mainardis with Jeff Candelora never feels forced or broken. The Special Makeup Effects by Jeremy Selenfriend are good for the budget and are enhanced by the above-average cinematography by Joe Vandergast in this overall well-lit movie. Folks, this is not an amateur film. Given the right budget, I'm quite sure this group could make a really good flick.
As it stands, the issues with this film seem to be related to logistics, not lack of vision. I get the impression that the film makers wanted as much from the ending as I did and were forced to go with what they had. Still, the flaws don't run deep enough for me to ignore the quality acting of Bill Cobbs, the intriguing story by the brothers Mainardi and the technical achievements that so many independent films sorely lack! And considering the fact that the production company for The Final Patient was called The Final Patient Productions LLC, "independent" it is. Independent and fully worthy of Three Stars out of Five, taken for all with all. Their next film may be better, but having this one as their debut, they could do a lot worse.
Quick serendipitous (and 100% true) anecdote for you... I'm watching The Final Patient on the Amtrak during my commute and the train is apparently experiencing electrical issues. During one particularly creepy scene in The Final Patient, lightening strikes and the power in Green's home goes out. At that very moment the power went out in the train, my screen dimmed and the lights died out. Now THAT was creepy! I knew there was some secret hidden power in the mythology of The Final Patient, but I haven't seen anything powerful enough to break the fourth wall since I caught a cold watching Outbreak! Let's just hope this review doesn't piss off the Mainardis! With any luck, I'll see you in the next reel!
Perhaps they could go back and re-film new scenes in a few years...
Call the new version The Bronx Patient, maybe?
It worked for Margi.
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