River's Edge (1986)

R   |    |  Crime, Drama


River's Edge (1986) Poster

A high school slacker commits a shocking act and proceeds to let his friends in on the secret. However, the friends' reaction is almost as ambiguous and perplexing as the crime itself.


7/10
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  • River's Edge (1986)
  • River's Edge (1986)
  • Dennis Hopper and Tim Hunter in River's Edge (1986)
  • River's Edge (1986)
  • River's Edge (1986)
  • River's Edge (1986)

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22 February 2011 | knucklebreather
8
| Wonderfully perplexing
"River's Edge" is a very perplexing movie. The most striking feature of the movie seems to be the universally apathetic characters. In the opening sequence we learn that Samson, a very large, uncontrollable teenager has killed Jamie, a member of his group of stoner friends from school, and left her naked body by the river's edge.

While there are many movies about heartless killers, Samson is fully realized, such as he is, and I was struck by the utter lack of any rime or reason to his actions, any "Hollywood" touches to humanize him or explain what he did. He killed a girl and really doesn't care. There was no planning, before or after, no moralizing, at most he is amused by it.

Samson (also called John because of his last name) tells his friends, who display apathy that might be shocking. The only one who seems to care is Layne (Crispin Glover) who wants to cover it up so his friend doesn't get arrested and executed. But the rest don't really seem too shaken by it, they don't get mad at John, they even justify his actions, and they certainly don't go to the police right away.

River's Edge works because there is no clear message. I'm sure many people can find one in it, but it's definitely not a movie that hits you over the head with some moral. It presents some very strangely behaving people, who are often over the top but depicted with just enough realism that you have to take what is going on seriously. The fun in this movie is that you get to float around in this shockingly apathetic teenage wasteland for an hour and a half, and see what you can make of it.

The main problem I had with the movie was the direction and soundtrack, which coincide to create awkward transitions and moments where "River's Edge" feels like a crappy low-budget flick you'd find being mocked on MST3K. None of the dialogue or plot falls into that category, but it's the transitions between scenes, where they often just kind of end unimpressive and cut to the next one.

The soundtrack also kept drawing me away from the movie. It includes some edgy metal for 1986, which is perfectly fine for the movie, but it doesn't do much with it, and instead most of the music is an orchestral soundtrack. Parts of it are very atmospheric and perfect for the movie's feel, but at other times it is hitting cliché film score notes during tense scenes and really seeming quite cheesy. I contrasted this movie with "Picnic at Hanging Rock", a spiritual cousin of "River's Edge" I would say, where the score was so utterly perfect at always building the mood, and really think River's Edge could have been an incredible movie with a score that consistent.

River's Edge isn't perfect. I had honestly never even heard of it until I saw it mentioned as a superior film with the same basic themes as "Bully" by Larry Clark. I am very glad I rented it, and am a bit surprised I'd never heard of it. It deserves to be better known. It has some flaws and not everyone will like it, but there is a lot of depth here, and of course its cast includes several famous people in early or debut roles.

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