Judge David M. Gutierrez's greatest fear is that this movie will stink.
Fear is just another name for what we really want.
Edmond Burke (William H. Macy, Fargo) is falling apart. His marriage is a joke and he's unraveling quickly. A quick trip to a medium tells him he needs to change his life. Edmond leaves his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon, State and Main) and starts wandering the city streets in search of quick physical gratification. Edmond meets strippers (Denise Richards, Wild Things, and Bai Ling, The Crow), a prostitute (Mena Suvari, American Beauty), and waitress Glenna (Julia Stiles, 10 Things I Hate About You). Edmond's world disintegrates through violence and despair, only to reassemble itself in the least likely and least desirable environment.
Edmond is an adaptation of a decades-old play by David Mamet for a screen version directed by Stuart Gordon (Space Truckers). While extremely faithful to the original—it was adapted by Mamet himself—the film limps along. Outside of the performances, there's very little that propels this movie along. Arguably, the entire film is a Macy performance piece, but even Macy can't keep the film from moving at a painfully slow pace. I got the feeling Gordon got bored behind the camera or spent all his time making sure the performances were at their best. There aren't any big climaxes, just a series of turning points. Perhaps the story was better suited for the stage than for the screen. It pains me that I can't put my finger on what kept this film from being great, but something causes it to miss the point.
As a story, Edmond hinges on a single theme—what you fear most is what you desire most. How a viewer feels about this idea will no doubt shape his or her opinion of the film. Edmond's looking for salvation, but his views on race, class, and sexuality are what is questioned and dissected. In order to preserve the surprise of the ending—and, believe me, it's not one that's predictable—I suggest skipping to the paragraph below. In the final act of the film, Edmond is in prison where he's sexually assaulted by his cellmate (Bokeem Woodbine, Dead Presidents), who later becomes his lover. I know prison life goes by a different set of rules than life on "the outside," but I thought it was a big cheat.
The acting is phenomenal. Macy not only carries Edmund, he owns every scene. He goes from stalwart to victim to criminal to self-assured man effortlessly. It's a shame that this film has gone unnoticed, if only for the marvel that is Macy. The remainder of the cast shuffles in and out, but the weight behind the list of names is very impressive. Joe Mantegna (Homicide) is amazing, as always, as the man who sets Edmond on his path. Blink and you'll miss cameos by George Wendt (Cheers), Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck), Debi Mazar (Empire Records), and Jeffrey Combs (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). Walsh is the best of the lot, turning his two minutes of screen time into a strong reminder of how good he can be and why he should be doing more work.
There are some nice extras included in the set. Stuart Gordon and David Mamet contribute their own commentary tracks. Baird's track is typical director fare. Mamet's was disappointing; I was hoping for something a bit more. Mamet chimes in every now and again, giving the history of the play and the film, but it's so sparse, it's almost worthless.
The picture and sound quality were adequate; I didn't notice any problems.
Overall, Edmond is a mixed bag. Watch it for William H. Macy's amazing performance. Unfortunately, there just aren't any more reasons to view it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
• Commentaries by Playwright/Screenwriter David Mamet and Director Stuart Gordon
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