7.1/10
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118 user 46 critic

River's Edge (1986)

R | | Crime, Drama | 8 May 1987 (USA)
A high school slacker commits a shocking act and proceeds to let his friends in on the secret. However, the friends' reaction is almost as ambiguous and perplexing as the crime itself.

Director:

Tim Hunter

Writer:

Neal Jimenez

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4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Crispin Glover ... Layne
Keanu Reeves ... Matt
Ione Skye ... Clarissa (as Ione Skye Leitch)
Daniel Roebuck ... Samson
Dennis Hopper ... Feck
Joshua John Miller ... Tim (as Joshua Miller)
Roxana Zal ... Maggie
Josh Richman Josh Richman ... Tony
Phillip Brock ... Mike
Tom Bower ... Bennett
Constance Forslund ... Madeleine
Leo Rossi ... Jim
Jim Metzler ... Mr. Burkewaite
Tammy Smith Tammy Smith ... Kim
Danyi Deats ... Jamie
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Storyline

A group of high school friends must come to terms with the fact that one of them, Samson, killed another, Jamie. Reactions vary, as Layne is intent on protecting Samson and smuggling him out of the state, while others think it's best to go to the police. Matt's tough little brother also finds out about the body and no one knows quite how the police will learn about the murder or who will be blamed for it. Written by Christine Sai-Halasz <sai@mit.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The most controversial film you will see this year.

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 May 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

River's Edge See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,900,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,600,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hemdale,Island See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Black and White (opening sequence)| Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Screenwriter Neal Jimenez based the characters on friends, with whom he went to school, in Sacramento, California. See more »

Goofs

When Layne makes the phone call to Feck from the phone booth (right as the police burst in on Feck), the reflection of a crewmember in a light colored shirt can be seen moving in the glass of the phone booth. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Checker: [points at legal age sign]
Samson: That's a real nice sign, how much.
Checker: I have to see ID.
Samson: I left it at home. How much?
Checker: I'm not going to sell you this unless you show me ID.
See more »

Connections

Features The Third Man (1949) See more »

Soundtracks

Happy Day
Written by Burning Spear
Performed by Burning Spear
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Wonderfully perplexing
22 February 2011 | by knucklebreatherSee all my reviews

"River's Edge" is a very perplexing movie. The most striking feature of the movie seems to be the universally apathetic characters. In the opening sequence we learn that Samson, a very large, uncontrollable teenager has killed Jamie, a member of his group of stoner friends from school, and left her naked body by the river's edge.

While there are many movies about heartless killers, Samson is fully realized, such as he is, and I was struck by the utter lack of any rime or reason to his actions, any "Hollywood" touches to humanize him or explain what he did. He killed a girl and really doesn't care. There was no planning, before or after, no moralizing, at most he is amused by it.

Samson (also called John because of his last name) tells his friends, who display apathy that might be shocking. The only one who seems to care is Layne (Crispin Glover) who wants to cover it up so his friend doesn't get arrested and executed. But the rest don't really seem too shaken by it, they don't get mad at John, they even justify his actions, and they certainly don't go to the police right away.

River's Edge works because there is no clear message. I'm sure many people can find one in it, but it's definitely not a movie that hits you over the head with some moral. It presents some very strangely behaving people, who are often over the top but depicted with just enough realism that you have to take what is going on seriously. The fun in this movie is that you get to float around in this shockingly apathetic teenage wasteland for an hour and a half, and see what you can make of it.

The main problem I had with the movie was the direction and soundtrack, which coincide to create awkward transitions and moments where "River's Edge" feels like a crappy low-budget flick you'd find being mocked on MST3K. None of the dialogue or plot falls into that category, but it's the transitions between scenes, where they often just kind of end unimpressive and cut to the next one.

The soundtrack also kept drawing me away from the movie. It includes some edgy metal for 1986, which is perfectly fine for the movie, but it doesn't do much with it, and instead most of the music is an orchestral soundtrack. Parts of it are very atmospheric and perfect for the movie's feel, but at other times it is hitting cliché film score notes during tense scenes and really seeming quite cheesy. I contrasted this movie with "Picnic at Hanging Rock", a spiritual cousin of "River's Edge" I would say, where the score was so utterly perfect at always building the mood, and really think River's Edge could have been an incredible movie with a score that consistent.

River's Edge isn't perfect. I had honestly never even heard of it until I saw it mentioned as a superior film with the same basic themes as "Bully" by Larry Clark. I am very glad I rented it, and am a bit surprised I'd never heard of it. It deserves to be better known. It has some flaws and not everyone will like it, but there is a lot of depth here, and of course its cast includes several famous people in early or debut roles.


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