I haven’t done one of these in a while, but after watching a very special movie last week, I was inspired to return to movie recapping.
So without further ado, may I present to you: The Edge (1997) a.k.a. Jack Donaghy and Hannibal Lecter fight a bear!
I love the blurred texture of this poster, as though they're going at some supersonic action movie speed. Amazing.
I know, I know. It’s not a conventional choice. My other picks were really actiony or campy and perhaps lent themselves to an easier skewering, but the thing about this movie is, while it is actually not poorly written (by David Mamet) and it is reasonably interesting to watch, there are parts of it that make me question its logic so hard, I thought it might be an interesting thing to dissect.
So back to The Edge. Anthony Hopkins plays a silver-haired billionaire named Charles Morse, but for the purposes of this recap, we’re calling him Hannibal. Hannibal is married to Elle Macpherson who, playing against type, is a model. Her character’s called Mickey, I guess to conjure up an image of youthful spunkiness, but since we don’t really see her do much of anything, it doesn’t really matter. The main thing we learn about their relationship is that Hannibal is old and Elle Mickeypherson is young and hot. That is it. I was always kind of hoping that we’d get a little more insight into how they got together or even worked together as a couple, but it never happens. They have no relationship chemistry at all and instead, Elle Mickeypherson treats him like her favourite grandpa . . . which is why Alec Baldwin is kind of a problem.
Alec Baldwin plays a character named Bob Green, but we’re calling him Jack. Now, please keep in mind that this movie was filmed long, long ago in the 1990s, back when “Being A Baldwin” still meant something. Granted, this movie was shot in the later ’90s, so by this point Baldwin’s appearance was kind of halfway between his young skinnypants Beetlejuice self and his latter day elder statesman of Thursday night television self (suck on that, Chevy Chase!), but he was still rocking the slicked hair and the steely gaze, so he’s a formidable opponent to Hannibal’s old codger.
1990s Alec Baldwin - Not as dumb as Stephen, not as dumpy as Daniel.
You see, “Jack” is a famous fashion photographer who is traveling with Mickeypherson, Hannibal and a bunch of stock artsy characters up to Alaska to shoot Mickeypherson against an Alaskan backdrop for some reason. What the photo shoot is for is never really made clear, but it is a grandiose show of Culture Misappropriation with Mickeypherson dressing up like a sexy Indian and posing on a dock in front of a lake. While they are shooting, Jack gets frustrated with the quality of his pictures and so he talks to the Wizened Old Scarface Innkeeper who shows him a picture of a real Indian who lives nearby. Jack is suddenly inspired by this and wants to make a jaunt out to whatever remote part of the Alaskan forest the Indian dude lives in to take pictures of him instead of Mickeypherson. Again, this brings up the question of what magazine this shoot is actually for? I think if FHM or Stuff magazine sent you on an expensive trip out into the wilderness to take pictures of a bikini babe and then you came back with pictures of a hard living old Indian dude, you’d have some explaining to do.
Pampered rich white ladies pretending to be ethnic is SO in right now.
In any case, Jack somehow convinces Hannibal to come along with him and a small crew to find the real Indian dude. All the while, Hannibal has been reading an Outdoor Adventuring book given to him by his assistant, so I suppose, feeling the need for some adventure, he joins Jack and his assistant (played by Harold Perrineau a.k.a. Mercutio) on a rinky-dink plane to go find Jack’s weathered old muse. Jack makes a point of assuring everyone that they will be right back which is how you know they are totally screwed. Have you ever watched a movie where a character saying “I’ll be right back” hasn’t led to their certain doom? Me neither.
Anyway, when they get to the guy’s rustic little cabin, there is a note pinned to the door saying he’s “Gone Fishin’” (or “Huntin’” as it were), so the team re-boards their plane and takes to the skies once more.
However, while they are in the air and chatting away, Jack makes a poorly timed joke about how he thinks Hannibal’s wife is cute. As Hannibal was already feeling a bit spiky/suspicious about Jack’s relationship with Mickeypherson, this leads him to respond with “So, how do you plan to kill me?” And pretty much immediately, the plane is downed by a flock of birds.
Stupid The Edge pilot! Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberg would NEVER have let this happen!
Again, I have questions:
1) Are birds not visible to pilots unless they are being sucked up into their Cessna engines?
2) Would that line of dialogue actually be said by a real human being who wasn’t:
a) a huge drama queen? Or b) in an action movie? Because it doesn’t even seem real.
3) Have none of these people ever heard of the word “divorce”? Because chances are, you’d still get money and things could be a lot less murdery. Just an idea!
So, temped by fate, the plane has crashed and is rapidly sinking into the Alaskan lake. Jack swims to safety while Hannibal uses his trusty hunting knife to cut Mercutio free of his seatbelt and rescue him. The pilot sadly receives no such help as he was done in by the duck that came crashing through his windshield. Poor, poor expendable pilot.
Once Jack, Hannibal and Mercutio make it to shore, they all take a moment to freak out about what just happened. I have to say, they recover from the trauma of just surviving a plane crash pretty well as they all seem to be pretty together within about 5 minutes. If it were me, I would be chanting “Holy $h!t” and rocking in the fetal position for the next two years. But, I guess you’ve got to focus on the task at hand, which for these guys is not freezing their asses off in the Alaskan wilderness since they are all wet and only wearing light polar fleece jackets for warmth. Jack has matches but they don’t work, so he instead opts to start a fire with one of their conveniently saved-from-the-plane rescue flares. So, one problem solved!
The next day, Hannibal take a paperclip off a bundle of papers he’d been keeping in his pocket, magnetizes it on his silk shirt and makes a makeshift compass with it in a tree stump. The men resolve to start walking back in the direction they came from when they encounter . . . *dun dun dun* a giant Kodiak bear! You see Wizened Old Scarface Innkeeper had previously warned them about bears, but none of them could have imagined his warning was actually an important piece of exposition.
I know, right?!
It is at this stage of the review that I would like to point out that THE EVIL BEAR was played by famous bear actor Bart the Bear who basically played “The Bear” in every movie that needed a bear from 1977 until his death in 2000 from cancer. Watching this movie in particular reminded me of how typecast poor Bart was. I mean who wants to constantly play “The Bear” in everything? I’ll bet he was just yearning to play a goldfish or Jean Val Jean or something. He could have become a famous Academy Award winner! . . . and then followed up his big screen tour de force with a movie in which he wore a fat suit. *sigh* Bears can dream, can’t they?
In any case, getting back on track after that detour into animal acting, THE EVIL BEAR, having locked onto their scent then starts chasing them through the forest. To get away, the men push over a tree and create a single log bridge across a rushing stream to supposedly make a quicker getaway, but truth be told, they seem to kind of be taking their time considering there is a two tonne man destroyer on their tail. For some reason, Mercutio hasn’t caught onto the fact that he is merely a Red Shirt in this whole wilderness adventure so he crosses the bridge with Jack and Hannibal is left trailing behind them. I guess this is done for dramatic effect, but when it comes to celebrity hierarchy, everyone knows that Anthony Hopkins trumps a dude from LOST any day of the week.
Instead of crotch scooching across the log like a sane person, Hannibal decides to tightrope walk across the log bridge, only to have THE EVIL BEAR jump up and down on the end of the log, making him drop the bag of flares and nearly drown in the rushing water below. Smooth moves, Hannibal! Thankfully, just in the nick of time, Jack grabs his hand and pulls him to shore, saving him from a watery grave. Isn’t that swell of him? You should let him sleep with your wife, Hannibal . . . if he hasn’t already (SPOILER ALERT!)
Scary bears, are watching you, watching your every move!
Once they are free of THE EVIL BEAR – because in this version of reality, bears don’t like water – Mercutio, like any normal person, starts spiraling into a state of panic again. It’s not exactly a Bill Paxton in Aliens kind of spazfest, but he’s pretty scared, so Hannibal decided to distract him with busy work and gives him a knife and a stick to make a spear. Unfortunately, instead of making a spear, Mercutio promptly stabs himself in the leg and starts bleeding all over the place. Hannibal uses some cloth to make a bandage/tourniquet like the elderly boy scout he is and then hands some of the blood soaked strips to Jack, telling him to bury or burn them so as not to attract the attention of THE EVIL BEAR. However, Jack instead takes this instruction to mean “hang the soiled bandages on the branches of trees downwind of our fire so that THE EVIL BEAR can smell Mercutio’s flamebroiled goodness” like a goddang twat. You know, Alec Baldwin, it’s a good thing you were pretty because you sure are dumb. So, since this movie barely lets five minutes elapse between dramatic foreshadowing statement and sudden doom, no sooner has Hannibal discovered the bandages in the trees does poor Mercutio get his ass mauled to death by THE EVIL BEAR. Alas, poor Mercutio, we hardly knew yea!
Oh Harold Perrineau, will you ever not die?
With Mercutio dispatched, that just leaves Hannibal and Jack, our two intrepid adventurers left to go. The pair decide to stay on the move and make a trap to capture a squirrel for some good eatin’. They rig up a variation of the old “baited box on a string” trap and are deliriously happy when they catch a cute piece of fluffy-tailed prey. Sadly, their jubilation is cut short when they realize THE EVIL BEAR has caught their scent again and is stalking them through the woods once more. That was really fast. I would have thought good ol’ Mercutio would have provided him with at least two days worth of eats, but maybe THE EVIL BEAR was more in the mood for some supple Baldwin beef . . . just like Hannibal’s wife (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN! Damn, I’m really bad at this today!)
In a feeble attempt to ward off the bear, Hannibal and Jack take sticks from the fire and “randomly” throw them around their camp spot to form a perfectly symmetrical circle barrier that THE EVIL BEAR cannot hope to penetrate (unlike Hannibal’s wife who . . . yes, I’m sorry, I’ll stop now). Hannibal decides the only way that they are going to survive this journey is to dispatch THE EVIL BEAR because at least that way, they can get on with their journey back to civilization uninterrupted by pesky bear attacks. Hannibal bates THE EVIL BEAR with his own blood and the two join forces to lure it into a battle to the death. At one point, THE EVIL BEAR slashes Jack across the chest, but apparently, it’s the gentlest bear mauling ever, because he survives, as does Hannibal who manages to get THE EVIL BEAR to impale himself through the heart on a giant spike. You know, it was at this moment, I actually kind of felt bad for THE EVIL BEAR. I mean maybe he just wanted to talk to Anthony Hopkins about his work in Amistad or something. He could have had purer motivations than we realized!
Stabbed through the heart! And you're to blame! Baby, you give bears a bad name!
Anyway, as THE EVIL BEAR is now THE DEAD BEAR, the two men eat his meat and manage to skin the corpse to create some weather appropriate winter wear . . . because I think it’s winter? I don’t know. The only things I do know are:
1) It’s started to snow,
2) Hannibal’s little utility knife was strong enough to skin an entire bear,
3) They must have had a sewing kit or something tucked away or there was a chapter in Hannibal’s Outdoor Adventure Book about making outfits out of bear carcass because coats and such they make look pretty expertly done.
Tragically, they’re not out of the woods, figuratively and literally yet because they have yet to be rescued. Really, at this point, with THE EVIL BEAR gone, we’re just killing time, but it does lead to one of the more ridiculous parts of the recap, so I’m continuing.
The men, dressed in their bear garb, come upon a cabin where they find some supplies. Hannibal reaches into his pocket to grab something and he pulls out the wad of paper that was originally clipped together by the paperclip they used for a compass earlier. It is the warranty for the birthday pocket watch Mickeypherson gave him, and attached to it is a slip of paper detailing what she wanted engraved on his watch . . . as well as what she wanted engraved on the watch she bought for her lover . . . Jack!
I wonder sometimes if Alec and William Baldwin (of "Fair Game" fame) ever compared notes about what it was like to be in movies with models. "Elle wouldn't shut up about being tall and from Australia! It was SO annoying!"
This is where I have some major logic issues with the movie. I know Mickeypherson is a model and perhaps not all that bright but:
1) If you’re conducting an illicit affair with someone you work with, why didn’t you take more care to not hide the evidence in your husband’s birthday gift?
2) If you’re buying presents for both your lover and husband, could you maybe have made TWO shopping trips?
3) If you insist on being a moron and buying all sex partner gifts at the same store, do you really have to include names on all the engravings? I mean, if you’re discovered, wouldn’t you maybe want to maintain some shred of plausible deniability? The engraving she put on Jack’s watch read “Dear (Jack), Thanks for all the nights. Love (Mickeypherson)” which is just as good as saying “Dear (Jack), Thanks for boning me when my husband wasn’t around! Love, your ridiculously stupid secret lover (Mickeypherson).”
I don’t mean this as a tutorial for how to cheat on your spouse, but for crying out loud, get a bit of a brain, woman! Not to mention, it’s kind of bad form to buy both men similar gifts – makes a tacky thing even tackier!
So as Hannibal’s great fear that his hot wife is hooking up with someone else is realized, stupid Jack decides that he really IS going to try to kill Hannibal after all. Really, movie? They get through a plane crash and a bear attack and now he’s going to try and take him out by shooting him? He could have just let the bear get him or he could have just let him drown in that tree bridge crossing incident from earlier. Little to no effort on Jack’s part. What is the point of showing them bonding and making “Best Friends Forever” necklaces out of bear claws if you’re just going to turn one of them into a megadouche? That sucks!
1990s Alec Baldwin is plotting your doom!
Thankfully the sucking doesn’t last too much longer since, when Jack Donaghy goes to shoot Hannibal Lecter, he falls into a massive pit full of spikes and his leg gets impaled on a very large wooden stake. In spite of Jack’s being a backstabbing asshole, Hannibal manages to get him out of the pit and into a boat which he rows to safety. This doesn’t stop Jack from dying just as they are about to get rescued but it shows us that in spite of his old codgery-ness, Hannibal is actually an okay guy.
Once the bush plane lands back in civilization, Hannibal hands Mickeypherson back the sex watch he stole from Jack’s body as a subtle way of telling her he knows about the affair. Hannibal also tells all of the reporters gathered for a press conference that both of the men that accompanied him on the trip (the pilot gets no love!) died but that they really “saved (his) life.” Ummm, did I miss the part where Mercutio was useful in any way? Or the part where Jack Donaghy didn’t try to kill you, Hannibal? Because while I know it’s meant as some serious depth of character statement, it almost makes you seem kind of dumb that you’re glossing over the fact both of those chumps almost got your billionaire ass killed.
This is Anthony Hopkins' "I might have won an Academy Award, but I can't work miracles on killer bear movies!" face.
So that was The Edge. I hope you learned as much about bear attacks, illicit love affairs and survival in the wilderness as I did! Join me next time for the “I Watched It So You Didn’t Have To” Series when we examine the ins and outs of working as a bouncer . . .
Other entries in the “I Watched It So You Didn’t Have To” series:
Conan The Barbarian
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