1997, R, 117 min. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Elle Macpherson, Harold Perrineau, L.Q. Jones.
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Sept. 26, 1997
Here's yet another film that, dealt a seemingly unbeatable hand, somehow fails to take the pot. The Edge's four aces are director Tamahori (whose 1994 film Once Were Warriors was one of the most powerful and original films of the Nineties), magnetic co-leads Hopkins and Baldwin, and screenwriter David Mamet (whose tale of wilderness survival and sexual rivalry explores issues of primal, even mythical resonance). These men's artistic histories raise tantalizing expectations of deep-probing light being cast on dark, uncharted areas of the male psyche. It never really happens, though the setup is at least interesting enough to string you along for an hour or so. Hopkins plays Charles Morse, a billionaire whose business success is largely due to his freakish ability to retain facts gleaned from his nonstop reading. His fortune made, he's now free to join supermodel trophy wife Mickey (Macpherson) on a trip to Alaska, where she's shooting a fashion spread under the supervision of pretty-boy photographer Robert (Baldwin). Morose, insecure Charles suspects that Robert has already cuckolded him and is now plotting to murder him so the adulterous pair can live off the fat of his stock dividends. When a plane bearing the two men and Robert's photographic assistant Stephen (Perrineau) crashes in a remote Alaskan forest, the only question Charles has for the younger man is, “How do you plan to do it?” But as it happens, Charles' mental knick-knack collection includes a lot of very useful stuff about roughing it in the wild. The citified billionaire, energized by the first real trial-by-fire life has ever presented him, becomes the men's best hope for escape. So now, a new question enters this psychosexually charged relationship: Will Robert's desire to kill Charles prevail over his urge for self-preservation? Mysteriously, this dramatic powderkeg fails to ignite. For all of Tamahori's skill in visually implying an imminent eruption of primeval rage, Mamet seems oddly tentative as the climax approaches. Hopkins and Baldwin argue and posture like junior high boys, a grizzly bear devours Stephen, Hopkins does some slick, McGyverish tricks with safety pins and belt buckles, yet the story's central conflict languishes too long in the background. Is Mamet is trying to inject a bit of restraint into what threatens to be a heavyhanded Papa Hemingway yarn of macho validation? Could be. But a more likely theory is that Mamet's just a city guy with a much better feel for the dramatic potential of real estate offices and cop shops than The Edge's deep-woods, Mark Trail milieu. Neither Hopkins nor Baldwin can be faulted. Both explore and illuminate their half-realized characters as best they can, but creating any real power or suspense is just too big a bear to kill. Watch that mailbox, Dave, your subscription to American Outdoorsman is on its way.