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With: Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Elle Macpherson, Harold Perrineau, L.Q. Jones, Kathleen Wilhoite
Written by: David Mamet
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
MPAA Rating: R for language and some adventure gore/violence
Running Time: 117
Date: 09/06/1997

The Edge (1997)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bear Knuckled

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As a rule, I don't like movies in which people starve to death. Or movies in which people are wounded and the wound turns gangrenous and they have to cut their legs off and die. Mercifully, the new movie The Edge avoids too many scenes like this. Unfortunately, it nails just about every other lost-in-the-woods cliché.

Director Lee Tamahori previously directed Once Were Warriors (1994), then moved to Hollywood and made Mulholland Falls (1996), a badly reviewed Chinatown imitator. He seems to prefer the old-style, male-oriented action films pumped out quickly. The Edge even features L.Q. Jones (a Sam Peckinpah veteran) as a grizzled old-timer who thinks he knows more than the city folk. Tamahori was at the screening I attended and he called his film his "Bob Aldrich movie." It wouldn't have been, though, if not for the manly script by David Mamet, who hauls out every tired plot device available and saturates it with his usual, intelligent, easy-on-the-ears dialogue.

Anthony Hopkins stars as Charles Morse, a book-smart billionaire who is married to Mickey (Elle Macpherson). Alec Baldwin is Robert Green, a fashion photographer who is having an affair with her. Mamet generally has trouble with women, and Mickey is left behind as the two men, accompanied by an assistant, go in search of a Native American hunter to take some photographs. Their plane crashes, and the three men, despite their differences, must survive in the wilds. The third character, played by Harold Perrineau, who happens to be black, is the first one to go (a most annoying cliché that should have been buried long ago). The travelers try to walk their way out, only to return to their first campsite by mistake. Then they come across a cabin, whose owner apparently "hasn't been there in some time." Before the trip, Charles receives a few birthday gifts that come in handy, or contain parts that come in handy, on their adventure. In fact, everything that happens in The Edge is telegraphed beforehand. (It used to be called "foreshadowing" when used by a skilled and subtle storyteller.) The entire script uses a cookie-cutter, 1-2-3 format.

However, the movie is a lot of fun, in the old-fashioned way that the Robert Aldrich movies were. The sequence in which Charles and Robert face down the man-eating bear that has been trailing them is particularly exciting. Mamet's dialogue keeps the characters sounding like people and not cardboard cutouts. And mercifully, we're spared the details of the worrying people left behind, and the organizing of search parties that return empty handed and all that stuff. Like many of the good-looking movie stars of the 1980s, Baldwin is turning into quite an actor, and of course, Hopkins is always worth a look.

Tamahori promised at the screening that The Edge wasn't like any other Hollywood blockbuster summer action movie, that it was more existential and thoughtful. I'm sure he'd like to think that, but to me it was a pretty routine B-type action movie with some nice touches. Someday it'll make a good rental from the "Action" shelf.

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