Tim Hunter’s brutal and unforgettable drama River’s Edge is one of the most unflinching looks at dysfunctional teen life ever put on screen, and serves as a grim reminder of how powerful true-crime based cinema can be when properly handled. Inspired by a real murder that took place in 1981 in California, Neal Jimenez’s hard-hitting script never soft pedaled any of the scary, emotionless nihilism that permeated a group of kids who were all tangled up in thoughtless killing, with an amazing cast of then-young actors doing sensational work, including Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye, Roxanne Zal, Josh Richman, and Crispin Glover, with Dennis Hopper providing his usual brand of sinister character acting from the fringes of this chilling film. With evocative cinematography by Frederick Elmes and a haunting score from Jürgen Knieper, this is one of those absolutely harrowing efforts that once you’ve seen you’ll never forget, and despite shining a light on some very unsympathetic characters (Larry Clark must love this film!) who are all caught in a deadly scenario, Hunter’s steely direction keeps the film from ever becoming cloying or sentimental, as he stressed the inherent cruelty and sadness of the story without over doing it. Available on Blu-ray via Kino Lorber.
Review by Nick Clement