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)

Backcountry

The reasons for fearing the outdoors in horror are four-fold: getting lost, hunted down by a slasher in the woods, accosted by a family of backwoods types, but rarely, getting attacked by an animal.

Backcountry hints at two of these, and delivers a third. And each is done well enough that the flick could’ve taken an unmarked path less traveled down any of ’em.

Couple Alex and Jenn leave the city (in this case, west Toronto) for a late-summer sojourn in the bush. She’s a newbie, he claims to know his way around the remote provincial park from experience going there as a kid (the meandering roadway to the park will warm the heart of any Ontarian, as will the ranger cabins where you check in before going to your campsite).

She’s packing heavy (flares/bear spray), he’s not. And adamantly so. He keeps her phone back at the car after reluctantly posing for a bush-selfie. Sure, it’s a dick move that stuck in the craw of a number of the pedants on IMDb, but it’s also a believable one. Keep the tech at home, kids, it’s the goddamn wilderness.

Their paths cross with a seedy Irishman with bad table manners (even for the backcountry) and that’s where things take a decidedly different turn.

Director Adam MacDonald (Rookie Blue) eases us into the woods pretty effortlessly and paints a solid picture of isolation/loneliness.

There’s constant chatter among us horror folk about what constitutes too much/little character development. With Alex and Jenn, MacDonald has it “just right,” a la Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

And speaking of bears…well, let’s just say that the film’s apex is an apex predator. There’s a scene that’s bold, brash and bloody.

And boy do we love our animal attack movies…and this fits right in (check out our podcast where we discuss the similarities between Grizzly and The Car)

Backcountry rewards patience, as does appreciation of nature at the end of the day.

Give this one a shot.

***1/2 (out of 5)