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River's Edge Reviews

One of the most haunting films of the 1980s, RIVER'S EDGE looks at a suburban, postpunk generation which has no causes, no morals, no feelings, and, worst of all, no future. This controversial drama, based on a notorious 1981 murder case profiled in Rolling Stone, opens with John Tollette (Daniel Roebuck), a hulking teenager who strangles his girlfriend Jamie (Danyi Deats, in the ultimate thankless role) and then matter-of-factly tells his friends about it. Matt (Keanu Reeves) and Clarissa (Ione Skye), the murdered girl's best friend, are disturbed, but Layne (Crispin Glover), a speed freak, views the situation differently. In his eyes, Jamie was a friend, but now she's dead; John is also their friend, but he's still alive and needs their help. As tensions within the group escalate, John and Layne take refuge with Feck (Dennis Hopper), a burned-out biker from the 1960s who had killed his own beloved girlfriend and has now given his heart to a blow-up sex doll named Ellie. RIVER'S EDGE owes its success, in large part, to Neal Jimenez's superb screenplay, which digs beneath the facades that contemporary teenagers hide behind and yields honest and complex portraits. This generation's postpunk worldview is rooted in nihilism, detachment, and fear of nuclear annihilation--nothing matters to them except friends, rock 'n' roll, and getting stoned. RIVER'S EDGE also boasts the best cast of unknowns since Francis Ford Coppola's THE OUTSIDERS. Reeves and Skye are superb as the moral centers of the film, Roebuck is great as the killer, and the supporting performaces are also impressive. Glover and Hopper go over the top and get away with it.