River's Edge | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Something very odd about this: a teen problem drama that seems to be fighting David Lynch battles with its own right-thinking consciousness. Teen-pic auteur Tim Hunter (Tex) isn't one to shirk his sentimental lessons, though the cautionary outlines of his story, about a gang of high school drifters who try to cover up a murder by a hulking 16-year-old psycho, have a hard time cutting through the surreal atmospherics of the images (by Blue Velvet cinematographer Frederick Elmes: maybe they should have called this Nightmare on Elmes Street or Blue Velveteen?). It's not easy keeping track of all the contradictory tensions here--lurid melodrama versus responsible sociology, 50s Elia Kazan emotionality versus 80s punk disaffection, stylized weirdness (Crispin Glover's gang leader, Dennis Hopper's toking amputee) versus behavioral naturalism (everyone else in the cast)--and the film seems forever on the verge of spinning totally out of control, though out of whose control--Hunter's? Elmes's? anyone's?--it's hard to say. Still, it's more a success than a failure, if only because the confusions are so protean: they're the result of too much ambition rather than too little, of risk-taking seriousness rather than by-the-numbers safety. It's a mess, but a mess worth seeing. With Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye Leitch, Daniel Roebuck, Joshua Miller, and Roxana Zal. (Biograph)

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