The Edge

From downtown…from Mitch & Murray, Mr. Steak Knives himself, Alec Baldwin, stars alongside with Sir Fava Beans, Anthony Hopkins in The Edge — in this, another David Mamet-penned joint (as talky, though not as memorable as Glengarry Glen Ross).

Hopkins plays a polymath billionaire, an almost Victorian era-styled adventurer named Charles, who is accompanying his age-inappropriate wife on a photo-shoot in Alaskan back-country (actually, western Alberta, Canada).

Charles, along with his wife’s dashing photographer (Baldwin), and their pal Stephen (Oz/Sons of Anarchy mainstay, Harold Perrineau) find out just how dangerous nature can be right off the bat when a bird strike downs their small plane, after some foreshadowing.

Stuck in the remote bush, the trio has to fend for themselves and make it to safety while a mammoth Kodiak bear is in hot pursuit.   

What good is a survivalist tale without a healthy dose of bickering? With Mamet in charge, this takes the form of pretty welcome, wry stuff like:

“You can season meat with gunpowder. Did you know that?
…Wish we had some gunpowder.”

With a love triangle as text, not subtext, we know that it’ll take everything these people have to get out of there alive without tearing out each others’ throats before ursa does.

When it comes to genre films, 1997 was a pretty great year: LA Confidential, The Fifth Element, Starship Troopers, Donnie Brasco, Jackie Brown, etc. Yet The Edge remains decidedly under the radar, despite a top-drawer cast that also includes Peckinpah regular L.Q. Jones and leggy Down Under model, Elle Macpherson.

The Edge asks the question, what personality style prevails in the bush? Is it Charles’ placid hubris, Bob’s impulsive hotheadedness, Stephen’s clarion calls? (the latter even spins a Voltarian variant of “the best is the enemy of the good” with, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”)

A genre film with smarts, The Edge loses its namesake with some coda-sagging. Still, a pretty fun nature-run-amok flick, and a great bear to boot.

*** (out of 5)

Shotgun

A weird hybrid of Don’t Answer the Phone! and Lethal Weapon, Shotgun is an inept cop buddy pic which should be booked for employing every cop cliche there is.

The title character is Shotgun Jones, who should be bedecked in furs and running around Harlem, but who is instead, a towering freckled Caucasian who favors pea-coats even in the stifling heat of Los Angeles.

Jones and African-American partner Max (Murtaugh to his Riggs) are tailing a “basher,” a guy who’s been giving ladies of the evening a rough go. In fact, it’s worse than that. He’s beating some to death.

And he’s getting away with it by employing what should be said is a very weird gambit: paying a guy to bring the girls to a fleabag motel to get the police off his scent. This is a good idea in theory, but not when your accomplice looks like you! This is one of the more baffling aspects of the very bewildering Shotgun.

But this isn’t a straightforward procedural. You see, Internal Affairs has a bone to pick with a cop who PLAYS BY HIS OWN RULES (caps for the obvious cop cliche). They set him up in a sting, and an angry Jones beats the snot out of an IA colleague with a night stick. To get a sense of how seriously LAPD takes rogue policemen, look no further than Jones’ punishment: a six month suspension (or, roughly one day for every day the poor bastard was stuck in the hospital).

Lucky for Jones, there’s an avenue for hotheads who’ve run afoul of police procedures: bounty hunting. Just imagine you’ve jumped bail and you’ve got the Geico Caveman and Barry Gibb’s illegitimate Jesus son bearing down on you.

Shotgun is an absolute joy, an odd mix of weird sub-plots (Max’s wife has a thing for Jones and Max is way too easy-going about it) and marble-mouthed meathead banter. There’s also cochlea-piercing Van Halen  guitar noodling that is so deafening it’ll have viewers diving for the remote.

And for action fans, you’ve got choppers, explosions, fisticuffs, ruthless drug dealers, and amazing montages.

Essential GED-level action fare.

****1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Shotgun!]