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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » River's Edge
River's Edge
MGM
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeff Shannon | posted April 24, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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Features:Widescreen aspect ratio 1.85:1, enhanced for 16x9. Audio Tracks: English (mono). Subtitles: French & Spanish. Theatrical trailer.

The Movie
Based on an actual incident, "River's Edge" was released the same year as "Blue Velvet" (1986) and in addition to sharing the same cinematographer (Frederick Elmes) and a wickedly unsettling supporting role for Dennis Hopper, both films were cited by critics as equally disturbing and superior explorations of the dark underbelly of American society. Here, a bleak and astonishing screenplay by Neal Jiminez (using some of his own high school classmates as inspiration) is carefully handled by underrated director Tim Hunter, whose previous film "Tex" provided good rehearsal for a film about troubled and troubling youth.

When one of these aberrant teens (Daniel Roebuck) strangles his girlfriend and leaves her naked body on the bank of a local river, his closest friend (Crispin Glover) hatches a plan to bury the body and establish a cover-up to protect the killer from prosecution. This crisis of loyalty intensifies when another of the group (Keanu Reeves) decides to tell the police about the killing, which in turn sets off a series of encounters between Reeves' precociously violent little brother (Joshua Miller), the neighborhood dope fiend and resident lunatic (Hopper), and the other friends (including Ione Skye) who are torn between loyalty to each other and loyalty to the truth.

Rarely has a film dealt so effectively with the dangers of kids out of control--rebellious, troubled kids who've been victimized by poverty, bad parenting, or just plain bad luck. Some may bristle at Crispin Glover's over-the-top, bizarro mannerisms and offbeat delivery of dialogue, but he's unforgettable in his drug-addled role, and serves as the catalyst for the movie's primary conflict. "River's Edge" gains added impact from the early-career performances of its young, then-unknown costars, and Reeves is quite good as the one punk who dares to act on his conscience. The world is harsh and ugly in "River's Edge"--you can only pray your kids don't turn out like this--but Hunter and Jiminez do manage to find some heart and compassion within the bleakness of this eye-opening drama.

The Picture
MGM's transfers have been a mixed bag, but "River's Edge" fares quite well overall. The image is generally crisp and detailed, the color balances accurate, and contrasts appear natural. No complaints here -- the letterboxing is solid 1.85:1 theatrical ratio, and there are no problems worth mentioning.

The Sound
There's no call for fancy audio here, so MGM can't be faulted for sticking with the film's original mono mix. It's been preserved cleanly and clearly, with no glaring problems. Straightforward and simple; a normal volume setting serves the purpose just fine.

The Extras
Extras? What extras? As usual, MGM offers a trailer and that's it. A commentary track from director Tim Hunter and screenwriter Tim Hunter would have been very welcomed indeed; consider this a missed opportunity, in keeping with MGM's heavy release schedule of stripped-down DVDs.

Conclusion
This is one of the most critically acclaimed films of the late 1980s. It's not going to offer any comfort to anyone who fears for the future of America's youth, but it's still an incisive and uncompromising look at a dark corner of our society. The DVD is quite acceptable in every respect, and MGM's pricing is attractive. You can't go wrong with rental or purchase.
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