The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Released in 1987, ‘River’s Edge’ is an unsettling and unforgettable movie about a real-life teen murder, and it still carries quite an emotional impact nearly thirty years after its release. The film was made for under $2, 000, 000 and shot in 30 days by director Tim Hunter, but was greeted with considerable critical acclaim and very modest box office success. Unlike the John Hughes-influenced teen films at that time, ‘River’s Edge’ portrays teen life as one of somber confusion and apathy, as opposed to the sanctimonious angst and self-pity typically seen in 'The Breakfast Club' and 'Pretty in Pink.' I first saw the film back in late eighties on VHS, and my appreciation has only grown after reviewing it on Blu-ray.
Daniel Roebuck (perhaps best known for his exceptional Jay Leno in the HBO film ‘The Late Shift’) plays John, a disheveled, sullen high schooler who chokes his girlfriend Jaime to death and leaves her nude body on the shore of a river. He tells his friends (Matt played by Keanu Reeves, Clarissa played by Ione Skye, and Layne played by Crispin Glover) about the murder rather matter-of-factly, and they gaze upon the body with a morbid curiosity. Instead of going to the authorities or doing anything else which might be reasonable in the face of an obvious murder scene, the kids merely become dazed and dumbfounded.
‘River’s Edge’ is an uncompromising examination into grisly and disturbing circumstances, yet avoids the gore and superficiality which might otherwise have reduced this movie to a perverted freak show. Director Hunter and screenwriter Neal Jiminez convey the same realistic grittiness of a Larry Clark film (especially ‘Bully, ” which is also based around the real-life murder of a high school kid), but without the gratuitous sex and sleaze. What’s most fascinating and disturbing about ‘River’s Edge’ is that characters are portrayed with depth and sensitivity, even though they could be rightfully dismissed as irresponsible losers.
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