2006, R, 82 min. Directed by Stuart Gordon. Starring William H. Macy, Julia Stiles, Joe Mantegna, Rebecca Pidgeon, Bai Ling, Mena Suvari, Denise Richards, Bokeem Woodbine, Debi Mazar, Jeffrey Combs, George Wendt, Dylan Walsh.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 29, 2006
Despite the committed involvement of a slew of top-notch actors and the always interesting participation of director Gordon (Re-Animator), this indie production can’t rise above the level of being a necessary curiosity for fans of Macy and David Mamet, who wrote the screenplay from one of his plays. And actually, the fans of Macy and Mamet comprise a sizable number, and these longtime collaborators fit themselves to the material like a hand and glove. (But even though the glove does fit, this movie we can’t quite acquit.) Essentially, Edmond details one long night of the titular middle-aged soul (Macy), in which one impulse – to go out for a pack of cigarettes and never return home to his wife – leads to the next in a relentlessly downward spiral. This is Mamet World: an urban jungle of garish neon lighting and gutter-mouthed bigots and con men, whose language reeks of taboo racial slurs, misogynistic thinking, and misanthropic desires. The role is a showcase for Macy’s talents, as the range of emotions and expressions he manifests go from the impassive schlub to the all-out wild man. Edmond’s first encounter after leaving home is with the guy on the next barstool (Mantegna), who spouts vile, disgusting free-the-id sentiments. From there, Edmond’s descent takes him from strip club to peep show and whorehouse. His pettiness comes to the fore as he balks at each woman’s monetary demands, arguing about the prices. Onward to a game of three-card monte, a pawnshop, and a revival meeting. Before long, Edmond emerges as a Bernhard Goetz figure, slashing back at a sleazy pimp and a dumb waitress/actress. In some ways, he resembles Peckinpah’s intellectual, who must face his violent impulses as played by Dustin Hoffman in the brilliant Straw Dogs. But Mamet’s script is more ambiguous: The reasons for Edmond’s rage remain remotely out of reach, and he suffers the rectification of poetic justice. Along the way, various insights do occur, though the film’s episodic structure prevents the various parts from ever gathering a full head of steam. Plus, the film’s make-up and costumes are pure bargain basement. Edmond’s depiction, a long night’s journey into day is an intriguing, disquieting, but ultimately overdrawn nightmare.