‘River’s Edge’ – Shocking, Unforgettable and a Must-See!

by Ricky Fernandes da Conceição
Published: Last Updated on

One of the most controversial indies of the 1980s, River’s Edge, drew its inspiration from a notorious real-life murder which took place in California in 1981. Tim Hunter’s extremely dark examination of alienation and moral vacancy among American kids growing up in a violent drug-fueled culture pre-dates Larry Clark and Harmony Korine by a decade. Unlike most 80’s teenage coming of age films, River’s Edge doesn’t glamorize youth; instead, this haunting film follows a suburban, post-punk generation with no compassion and no future. The riveting screenplay by Neal Jimenez depicts these middle-class teenagers without cause, morals, nor guilt – who spend their days aimlessly wandering around like the walking dead. River’s Edge is a frightening film, not just because it is so unrelenting in its portrait of teen nihilism, but because it rings painfully true. This film doesn’t flinch from the dark minds of these teenagers. Instead, it presents concrete proof of the ethical erosion eating away at the roots of our society. River’s Edge boasts a fantastic cast which includes Crispin Glover as a manic speed-freak and Dennis Hopper as an over-the-hill biker who’s replaced his recently deceased girlfriend with a blow-up sex doll named Ellie. Glover and Hopper go over the top while Keanu Reeves is tasked with playing the most conflicted member of the group. Reeves is superb as the moral center of the film and makes a strong impression despite by the histrionics of Glover and Hopper mugging the camera every step of the way. River’s Edge wasn’t Reeves’ first film, but it was a critical success, and without a shadow of a doubt, it’s the finest film of his early career. This is a hidden gem that remains criminally under-seen.

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