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Razor's Edge, The
THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
In 1984, hot off Ghostbusters and Stripes Bill Murray decided that it was time to get serious. He set out to adapt W. Somerset Maugham's novel about a man searching for inner peace following his service in the first World War.
Murray co-wrote the screenplay with director John Byrum and starred as Larry Darrell, a rich American on the path to a career in finance. His ambulance corps experience in the war, however, shakes him to the core, and he returns to America unable to reconnect with his fiancee Isabel (Catherine Hicks). A trip to Paris on the dime of the worldly Elliott Templeton (Denholm Elliott) introduces Larry to the bohemian life and also to hardwork. After stints in a fish-packing plant and a coal mine (probably not in Paris, I'm guessing) Larry heads to India for some soul searching.
He soon finds himself on a journey up to Tibet for some monk-inspired inner-peace. Then it's back to Paris where Larry reunites with his less-than-at-peace old chums. He attempts to bring them calm with varying degrees of success.
As you can tell, The Razor's Edge involves a lot of global running around. While not a bad movie, it just doesn't have the epic scope or emotional intimacy that it needs. Recently I reviewed a masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia, that also follows one man through his World War I-era journey. That film manages to both provide a personal look into the tormented soul of its protagonist while still evoking the grandeur of adventure on the global stage. But that film was directed by the master of the epic, David Lean, and featured a stunning performance by Peter O'Toole.
The Razor's Edge doesn't amount to much, partially due to Murray's glum performance. In early pre-war scenes he has the energy and wit of his early performances, reigned in only slightly because, one assumes, he wanted to play up to the serious art film vibe he hoped for. Once he returns from war, however, he becomes a much more boring actor, going from traumatized sullenness to soulful sullenness. Not an exciting journey for a filmed character. Murray has recently tapped into his more dramatic inclinations, in films like Ed Wood and Rushmore (he was wasted in The Royal Tenenbaums) with simpler goals and better success. The moment in Rushmore when he realizes that Max's father is a barber - and everything that that implies - is more moving and meaningful than two hours of The Razor's Edge.
The anamorphic widescreen video is clean if a bit soft. Colors are drab and washed out as well. The DVD's information claims it has been "Remastered in High Definition," whatever that means. This isn't an HD-DVD and the resolution is standard.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 is fine. Dialog is clear. Subtitles are available in English and French.
Trailers for The Razor's Edge, Seven Years in Tibet and Gandhi are included.
The Razor's Edge doesn't explore the subject in enough depth to really expand any minds and Murray's performance keeps the viewer emotionally at arm's length. His fans might be curious to see how he does in such a different role, but overall the film's meandering journey doesn't reach its intended goals.
Email Gil Jawetz at [email protected]