Review Index


Good film, but overrated. RIVERíS EDGE, loosely based on a true story, is one of the most popular of the teens-from-Hell films of the eighties, and features quite a few then-upcoming stars. Still, Iíd suggest seeking out the similarly themed seventies shocker THE TODD KILLINGS in its place.

The Package
     RIVERíS EDGE appeared in 1986, the same year as BLUE VELVET, which it resembles in many respects. It features Dennis Hopper, a co-star of the previous film (who was in the midst of a comeback after years of drug addiction), and BLUE VELVETíS genius cinematographer Frederick Elmes. Also on hand is Crispin Glover, a future David Lynch co-star and weird media guru. Keanu Reeves appears in an early starring role, as does the young Joshua Miller (from NEAR DARK) and a debuting Ione Skye.
     Another debuting talent was screenwriter Neal Jimenez, whoíd go on to script WHERE THE RIVER RUNS BLACK, FOR THE BOYS and HIDEAWAY, and co-direct THE WATERDANCE. RIVERíS EDGE, even though itís not perfect, remains his finest work--Tim Hunterís, too.

The Story
     The teenaged Samson thoughtlessly murders his girlfriend one day and leaves her body on a riverbank. Samson then brags about the killing to his friends, including the good-hearted stoner Matt, the nutty Layne and the airheaded Clarissa. Others privy to the murder are Mattís psychotic little brother Tim and the middle-aged Feck, an eccentric who lavishes affection on a blow-up sex doll while boasting about a woman he killed long ago.
     Nobody initially does anything upon learning of the killing, including asking why Samson committed the murder (ďHe had his reasonsĒ is the only explanation offered). But Matt is moved to tell the police, precipitating a wild night in which Matt and Clarissa get together, Tim plots to kill Matt, Layne gets apprehended by cops, and Samson meets his end at the hands of Feck. None of these characters emerge from it all that different from how they began, which is apparently the whole point.

The Direction
     Critics like to discuss this film as a statement on teenage apathy a la Larry Clarkeís notorious films KIDS and BULLY. Apathy is certainly one of major points of RIVERíS EDGE, but it has more in common with wayward teen melodramas like REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and OVER THE EDGE (which was scripted, appropriately enough, by this filmís director Tim Hunter). Itís the melodrama that dates the film (the sappy Matt-Clarissa romance all-but stops it dead in its tracks), along with the tacky eighties score and uneven performances.
     Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye and most of the other leads are solid, but the actresses who woodenly play Reevesí mother and little sister definitely arenít. As for Crispin Glover and Dennis Hopper, both appear to be acting in an entirely different movie, as their over-the-top performances are totally at odds with those of everyone else.
     A similar confusion afflicts Tim Hunterís filmmaking, which is staunchly naturalistic for the most part but contains episodes of distracting silliness (Feckís relationship with the sex doll couldnít possibly have been meant to be taken seriously) that donít mesh at all with the rest of the film. The result is a somewhat schizophrenic experience that definitely has its share of powerful moments (notably the sight of the protagonists disaffectedly standing around the dead girlís corpse) but overall just isnít the hard-hitting masterpiece itís been made out to be.

Vital Statistics

Hemdale Film Corporation

Director: Tim Hunter
Producers: Sarah Pillsbury, Midge Sanford
Screenplay: Neal Jimenez
Cinematography: Frederick Elmes
Editing: Howard Smith, Sonya Sones
Cast: Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye Leitch, Roxana Zal, Daniel Roebuck, Joshua Miller, Dennis Hopper, Josh Richamn, Phil Brock, Tom Bower, Leo Rossi, Taylor Negron