Where is Davy Crockett when you need him? As we children of the
50s know, Davy "killed him a bear (pronounced "bar") when he was only
three." The simplistic story for THE EDGE -- men get lost in the
wilderness, bear chases men, men chase bear -- has men who are in
desperate need of a bear exterminator.
Although the story sounds like a children's wilderness yarn, this
one was written for an older crowd. In a minor subplot, there may or
may not be a love triangle and an associated murder plot. From the
show's trailers possible murderous intentions seem to be the heart of
the film, but they aren't. Endless chase scenes of man and bear are.
The biggest surprise in the film are the names of the writer and
the director. The writer, David Mamet, is one of the best
screenwriters and playwrights working today. His cinematic body of
work includes THE VERDICT, THE UNTOUCHABLES, GLENGARRY GLEN
THINGS CHANGE and, my personal favorite, HOUSE OF GAMES. The
Lee Tamahori, burst onto the movie scene with his uniformly praised
ONCE WERE WARRIORS. (Granted, his only other film, MULHOLLAND
is an unmemorable exercise in style.) Together these brilliant men
have managed to fashion a mediocre tale of wilderness survival.
The only outstanding part of the movie is the breathtaking, aerial
cinematography by Donald McAlpine, whose previous picture was last
year's gorgeous ROMEO + JULIET. The rest of the film, although
pleasant enough, has little to recommend it.
The story opens with a billionaire named Charles Morse flying to a
remote cabin nestled between snow crusted mountains. Morse is played
with his usual charm by Anthony Hopkins in the only interesting
performance in the film. Charles's hobby is knowing everything about
everything, especially about wilderness survival. He knows the tricks
people have used throughout history to survive, and this knowledge soon
Accompanying him is his beautiful wife, Mickey, played by Elle
Macpherson. Mickey is a fashion model who is there to shoot a photo
spread in the woods. She is accompanied by her photographer, Robert
"Bob" Green (Alec Baldwin) and Robert's aide Stephen (Harold Perrineau
Jr.), whose only purpose in the film is to be the expendable one.
Baldwin plays his role rather laconically instead of imbuing his
character with the mystery called for.
On a flight to find an Indian to put in the picture with Mickey, a
plane with just the men aboard crashes. The three men then set off on
their quest to be rescued beginning with a lecture from Charles on what
happens to most lost people. "They die of shame," he explains.
"Because they didn't do the one thing that would save their lives --
thinking." Well, Charles does their thinking for them, including
creating a compass from the raw materials at hand.
The picture has numerous hard-to-believe sequences, but none more
so that the many confrontations with the bear, played by "Bart the
Bear." I hate to disparage an animal actor, but he looked too much
like the singing animatronic bear from Disneyland's Country Bear
Jamboree to be frightening. Maybe Bart needed better lines.
For a wilderness film, it has less tension than most. Charles and
Bob seem subconsciously confident that their rescuers will eventually
arrive. "Our friend's a billionaire," is how Bob explains it to
Stephen. "You know what happens when they misplace one."
If the studio had misplaced this movie, not much would have been
lost. And, except for the undeniably beautiful setting, there is
little worth trying to save.
THE EDGE runs 1:57. It is rated R for a few gory scenes and some
profanity. The film would be fine for teenagers. Although beautiful
to behold, there is not enough compelling material to make the picture
worth recommending. I give it **.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes