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EDMOND (director: Stuart Gordon; screenwriter: David Mamet/based on Mr. Mamet’s play; cinematographer: Denis Maloney; editor: Andy Horvitch; music: Bobby Johnston; cast: William H. Macy (Edmond Burke), Julia Stiles (Glenna), Joe Mantegna (Man), Rebecca Pidgeon (Wife), Bai Ling (Girl), Lionel Mark Smith (Pimp), Mena Suvari (Whore), Denise Richards (B-Girl), Bokeem Woodbine (Black Inmate); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Chris Hanley/Molly Hassell/Duffy Hecht/Mr. Gordon/Roger Kass/Mary McCann/Kevin Ragsdale; First Independent Pictures; 2005)
“None of it rings true for even a NYC second.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Classic horror maven director Stuart Gordon’s (“Re-Animator”/“From Beyond”) adaptation of David Mamet’s unsuccessful 1982 Off Broadway one-act play about a discontented mild-mannered stuffy nebbish lower-echelon corporation executive Edmond Burke (William H. Macy), who walks out on his wife and takes a walk on the wild side during his middle-age crisis. Gordon, a longtime Mamet supporter (worked together at Chicago’s Organic Theater Company), is of no help in presenting Mamet’s rant, leaving it all sizzle and no substance in its same play form. It’s all about Mamet-speak tirades regarding Angry White Males, who are Reaganites in rebellion against their empty lives, their failed civilized world and the upstart blacks. The trouble is that the satire on middle-class angst has little bite and is sophomoric. It can be enjoyed mainly by those who just love Mamet-ese, no matter the story line’s failings.

New York City executive Edmond Burke is on his way home from work when he stops to have a tarot card reading and is told, “You are not where you belong.” At home, Edmond tells his longtime wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) he’s leaving for good because he doesn’t love her and he first stops off at a bar for a few drinks. There he meets a well-dressed stranger (Joe Mantegna) who appears to empathize with his plight and lays on him his trip against blacks. He also lays on him a card of a nearby exotic sex club, telling the confused man he needs to get laid. Edmond visits the club in the Times Square area (filmed in Los Angeles) and gets bounced over arguing about the high price of drinks. He then goes on a free-fall as he walks through an urban hell and is shocked to discover that sex clubs, peep shows, prostitutes and three-card monte games in the street are all hustles. The uptight square is not even a tourist, but thinks like one (or, I should say the playwright thinks like one).

After our contemptuous hero goes through an urban nightmare and is swindled, robbed and beaten, he finds his inner voice and the strength to beat a black pimp mugger nearly to death with his newly purchased knife (a survival substitute for his briefcase) and spews out racist remarks. With his demonic victory he finds the macho courage to screw a young waitress and aspiring actress (Julia Stiles), but when she freaks out as he goes into a revelation rant he slashes her to death. The lost soul then seeks spiritual redemption at a mission church, only to somehow wind up in prison where he becomes the bitch to his muscular black cellmate (Bokeem Woodbine). It unconvincingly descends into a Jean Genet-like allegory, without ever getting to any sensible explanation or insight into why the main character let himself fall so far.

None of it rings true for even a NYC second, even as it calls everyone out, black or white, as a racist or a sleaze or a failure. It clamors to be an odd spiritual journey of a failed man trying to find God and his own path in the world, but lacks any great vision to pull off its aims except to make us possibly squirm at seeing how such a nerd (who not only relates to the author and the protagonist, but to the male white viewer) comes to a boil.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”