Desolation therapy

Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins square off in the wild.

by

comment

First, The Game. Now, The Edge. Tis' the season, it would seem, for tycoons to undergo shock therapy. In real life, Ted Turner can find enlightenment with 10-digit philanthropy. But Hollywood requires a more tortured and circuitous route.

Witness billionaire Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins), tagging along on a photo shoot with his super-model wife, Mickey (Elle MacPherson), at a remote lodge in the wilds of Alaska. Robert Green (Alec Baldwin) is the photographer, a bit too familiar with the wife and a bit too deferent to the husband.

In the early scenes, writer David Mamet and director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) do a lovely job of creating an uneasy psychic climate, with Charles moping around the periphery, appraising the vibrations between his wife and the aggressively glib photog. Tamahori knows a thing or two about the games unhappy men play. And that famous Mamet gloom machine runs at full throttle on a blend of hard-bitten realism and crisp dialogue laced with acidic irony.

Unfortunately, the promising introduction gives way to plot points when Green decides that he must have an "authentic" Indian for his shoot and convinces Charles to accompany him on a mission to find his man. As is the wont of action thrillers, the plane must crash, but not before Charles confronts Green with Act 2's calling card: "How are you going to kill me, Bob?"

So begins an "Outward Bound via Hemingway" odyssey of men testing themselves and each other in the savage, unforgiving world of macho metaphors. (Papa, cue Bart the killer bear, please.) Despite a few thrills, one moans and groans at the more literal chorusing of Tamahori's landscape vistas and Mamet's wilderness of his men's souls. But the leads are mesmerizing.

Alec Baldwin, nearing 40, the once divine face taking on flab, has become the quintessential Mamet swine. In Glengarry Glen Ross, he nearly stole the show as the uptown hatchet man, come to read the riot act of extinction to a gang of real estate salesmen much further down the food chain of American capitalism. In The Edge, his Bob is a man suffering through an existence of surface flash, the body corpulent from decadence, the soul withering from cynicism and self-doubt that he projects relentlessly onto Charles. Whatever good that's left in him is being given last call. And Bob simply isn't up for it. Envy and greed and petulance are his second nature. Tough only in talk, he lacks the "edge" to reverse the fortunes of his damaged karma.

And what to say about Sir Tony except that he's done it again? The icy blues gleam with steely confidence and that wondrous voice purrs with the sage calm of an Indian guide or bellows like Iron John, ready to slay the overheated beasts of fur and fear.

Man of thought, man of action -- Charles is Mamet's über-mensch, the wallflower who applies his "theoretical" knowledge to survive while less erudite, more macho men succumb. This being Mamet, his reward is the possibility of personal change. We are left unsure if the cure will actually take, but hope for the best while expecting the worst.

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.