Genre: Drama and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 22 min.
Release Date: July 14th, 2006 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Stuart Gordon Actors: William H. Macy, Denise Richards, Bai Ling, Mena Suvari, Julia Stiles, Bokeem Woodbine, Debi Mazar, Joe Mantegna
t once riotously funny, tragically bizarre, and ridiculously revolting, “Edmond” will surely have viewers fidgeting in their seats. Few films have the power to annoy and disgust, while also generating enough curiosity to stick with the journey just to see what could possibly happen next. Perhaps this is the weight of such an uncommon collaboration as director Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator,” “From Beyond”) and playwright David Mamet (“The Verdict,” “The Untouchables”).
One day after work, Edmond Burke (William H. Macy) happens upon a fortune teller who tells him he is “not where he belongs.” Taking the advice to heart and reevaluating his life, Edmond returns home to tell his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) that he no longer loves her (and had in fact grown tired of her long ago) and will be leaving and never coming back. Aghast, she promptly throws him out. Edmond then embarks upon a treacherous journey of self-discovery through New York City’s seedy underworld, encountering prostitutes, pimps, strippers, murderers, thieves, and aspiring actresses, which slowly wear away at his sanity, sending him into a downward spiral of self-destruction and violence that will drastically alter the course of his life – and possibly lead him to the answers he’s been looking for.
“Edmond” is essentially a character study, with the title character undergoing an awkward and brutal quest toward acknowledging identity and uncovering the meaning of human existence. In the process, William H. Macy creates a persona unlike any other, brimming with energy and psychosis, liberated through his own unbalanced, overwrought thoughts. At first confined by society’s requirements, he learns to let go and act without fear of consequences – a revelation as rewarding as it is dangerous. Macy releases countless frantic emotions through Edmond, further validating his diverse and impressive acting talents – and also evoking compassionate concern for the bumbling antihero’s imminently catastrophic future.
An equally impressive supporting cast brings Mamet’s play-turned-script to life, most notably led by Julia Stiles as Edmond’s first real love interest, a waitress and wishful actress whose fickle instability mirrors Edmond’s own schizophrenic indecisiveness. And Denise Richards, Bai Ling, and Mena Suvari all humorously portray prostitutes whose earnest intentions perfectly parallel Edmond’s severe sincerity. And even Gordon regular Jeffrey Combs makes an appearance as a desk clerk.
Though intelligently scripted throughout, many of the events in “Edmond” are just far too uncomfortable and bleak for the average moviegoer. The first half of the film is an exercise in perfecting pitch black comedy and wry social commentary, but unexpected violence midway through throws this speeding train of bottled emotions and pent-up rage off course enough that viewers will certainly feel the derailment. The exceptional acting and smart dialogue never falter, but the sudden deviation in tone and imagery is impossible to recover from. Despite such a promising start, the markedly deranged conclusion will feel anything but satisfactory (even if Edmond believes he has found the sort of peace he’s been looking for) and, like a literal train wreck, it’s the kind of thing that is difficult to turn away from, but will have audiences regretting that they hung around to see it.
– Joel Massie