The Edge

May 11, 1998

One would expect the mingling of such explosive talents as director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) and playwright cum scriptwriter/director David Mamet (House of Games, Glengarry Glen Ross) to be a volatile one. Tamahori’s Once Were Warriors is a potent, visceral portrait of human savagery; more like a punch in the face than a movie. Mamet’s talents lie in the waterfall of words that cascade over his character’s lips. His films are, to quote Elvis Costello, ‘like a chainsaw running through a dictionary’.

With Tamahori playing the insatiable id to Mamet’s ego, a film like The Edge should by all rights be, at the very least, watchable.

Watchable it is, but in the distillation of these two talents into one vat, something happened: they bled out the soul and turned the resulting film into something gnarled and distorted. The Edge is not dreadful, but there’s something about it that just feels wrong; something feels missing. Watching The Edge, you get the impression that it’s only a part of a greater, absent whole - a head and phallus cut away from a body, separated from the heart.

If millionaire Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) is the head, then fashion photographer Bob Green (whose name sounds like the host of a bow hunting show, and who is played by Alec Baldwin) is undoubtedly the penis. Morse is a man adrift in the world of words, a voracious book reader who has lost the ability to form connections to anything but letters on a page. Morse’s wife Mickey (Elle Macpherson) is, coincidentally enough, a model (hmm) who may or may not be having an affair with Green, and it’s this uneasy trinity that forms the basic conflict of The Edge.

On a photo shoot in the wilderness (with the Alberta Rockies standing in for Alaska), the plane carrying the two men crashes after a close encounter with a Canadian goose (or something like that). The crash leaves them to fend against the wilds and the increasing tension between each other. As the bookworm, Morse is a treasure trove of information - a millionaire’s MacGuyver, complete with neat nature trickery straight out of a boy scouts manual, while Green is just the photographer - he’s capable only of shooting his camera off, and getting all hotheaded (puns intended). Their close encounter with a big ol’ bear is seemingly the catalyst which will bond the two men closer than a Robert Bly hugathon, but as things progress the rift between the two men’s worlds turns into something more deadly.

The Edge is diaphanous entertainment - it has enough smarts to appeal to those that expect an education while at the movies, albeit a pretty useless one - and some overcranked Dolby surround sound action which will appease those who still feel unfulfilled by another summer of doozy action films. On the whole, though, there’s really nothing here that knocks you out. There’s no single scene that manages to work its way under your skin and stick with you after the lights have come up. As another cold, uncertain film, The Edge tries to please too many and instead pleases few - the action sequences are few and far apart, and the chemistry between the two men is forced and uninvolved. There’s almost nothing worse than a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be, and The Edge is one of them; a two-headed hydra of a film, with both heads constantly bickering, and neither making complete sense.

ISSN 1499-7894
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