Dir. Stuart Gordon, US, 2005, 78mins
Cast: William H. Macy, Rebecca Pidgeon, Julia Stiles
Review by Angus Macdonald
Edmond Burke (Macy), a successful executive, is bored with his rich, safe, comfortable life. After getting his tarot cards read, the bleak message sends Edmond off in a strange, seedy and violent exploration of New York City. He leaves his wife (Pidgeon) for no reason, he gripes about the futility of his job, tries to pick up prostitutes but haggles too much over the prices, gets mugged, buys a knife and starts shouting at anybody (including a poor old black lady on the subway) that gets in his way, until he ends up discovering contentment in the unlikeliest of places.
It’s difficult to grasp the thought behind the production of Edmond, a vitriolic, poisonous rant against modern life in America in which everyone and everything is to blame for the characters anger. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine the joining of forces of David Mamet, one of the most celebrated, controversial and certainly one of most important living American writers (and a lean impressive filmmaker in his rights) and the schlock-tastic, B-movie campness of the director of low-budget cult favourites Reanimator and From Beyond, Stuart Gordon. Although they both began their careers at the experimental Chicago Theatre (Gordon actually directed the premiere staging of Mamet’s play Sexual Perversity in Chicago), the problem with the film is that it feels as though Gordon himself can’t quite imagine the link to Mamet either, simply allowing the actors to read through the lines and to hope for the best. There is no tension, imagination, or indeed any sense of drama in evidence here, which considering the screenplays examination of escalating anger, derangement and violence is enough to make the sporadic, crumbling result a showcase for actors spouting off and shouting.
At the beginning of his misadventures it’s women who get the brunt of his dissatisfaction; his wife bores him, prostitutes want too much money and the one girl he manages to pick up happens to be a pill-popping paranoid who takes his hyper ranting as aggressive and threatening. By the time his tirade suddenly and inexplicably turns on Black people and homosexuals, the film has already started to wear thin. It’s only within the last ten minutes a glimmer of clever purpose belatedly appears.
Unlike films such as Taxi Driver or Falling Down, Edmond’s descent into anger and frustration at the world of decaying moral values does not convince. Adapting and updating his own 1983 one-act play, Mamet’s screenplay comes across as an extremely one-sided argument. Admittedly there are effective moments of Mamet’s trademark use of interrupted jabbing dialogue and words and phrases being repeated like punches, but while it may have been shocking and revealing when first written, here the film comes across as being whiney and dated. Based primarily during one night, all of Edmond’s encounters with the various prostitutes, pimps, hustlers and other assorted oddball characters add up to nothing more than a quick succession of episodes.
Macy is as good as ever while still managing to sleepwalk through the role. What makes the film interesting to sit through are catching the assembly line of cameo appearances from Joe Mantegna, Denise Richards, Dulé Hill, Ling Bai, Debi Mazar, Mena Suvari and George Wendt, to name but a few. But each of these characters are simply props written to fuel Edmond’s fury, only adding to the episodic, arbitrary, and unfortunately one-dimensional nature of the film.
Reviewed as part of the Sci-Fi London Film Festival, 2007. www.sci-fi-london.com