Two guys enter into a whose-is-bigger? contest, with Elle MacPherson as the prize, in “The Edge.”
The pleasant surprise is that “The Edge” is better than that sounds. The guys - Anthony Hopkins as an impatient gazillionaire and Alec Baldwin as a smarmy shutterbug - are on a fashion shoot with the considerably-taller-than-either-of-them MacPherson. But she’s quickly forgotten when the boys are in a terrifying airplane accident that strands them in the wild, surrounded by bears. Meanwhile, Hopkins thinks Baldwin has murder on his mind.
“The Edge” gets its edge from David Mamet’s script, which is smarter than the average bear, Boo-Boo. At first glance, it’s unlikely material for Mamet, who’s most comfortable conjugating the f-word in gritty urban settings.
But “The Edge” quickly dives into the Mamet specialty of two people, pushed to the limit and grappling for emotional power over each other. Sometimes the smarter Hopkins seems to have the upper hand, sometimes the cannier Baldwin does, and the outcome of their struggle for survival remains in doubt up to the last minute.
Director Lee Tamahori, whose “Mulholland Falls” was a major missed opportunity, rebounds with “The Edge.” In particular, a battle with a man-eating bear looks real enough to show up on the Discovery Channel - there’s a terrifying shot with the camera pointed right into the ugly, gray, gaping maw of the bear in mid-munch.
There are a number of fine action sequences, but what’s best about “The Edge” is that everything is designed to help us understand the two main characters.
Their beliefs and motivations are revealed to us as they respond to each dangerous situation. And in the end, “The Edge” isn’t as interested in all the horrible things that happen to Hopkins and Baldwin as it is in how they respond when they’re up against it.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “The Edge” Location: Lyons, Vally Mall and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Lee Tamahori, starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin Running time: 2:00 Rating: R