**½/**** Image A Sound A
starring Cillian Murphy, Tricia Vessey, Stephen Rea, Jonathan Jackson
screenplay by Daniel James and John Carney
directed by John Carney
by Walter Chaw John Carney's On The Edge is sort of a Gaelic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: an irreverent teen Murphy ("Cillian Murphy" as it happens, playing a character named Jonathan Breech) inspires a batch of ruined adolescents in a County Dublin asylum to restore themselves through the healing power of petty rebellion. It's formulaic and derivative at the least, but the soundtrack, performances, and smooth look of the piece elevate its stagnant material into something--at least fitfully--emotionally engaging, if not intellectually involving.
After the death of his father, Jonathan (Murphy) buys some snort, picks up a skate betty, steals a car, and drives it off a cliff. Waking in a mental hospital clad in pale blue pyjamas with his pinkie in a splint, Jonathan meets a tortured bookish type, Toby (the underestimated Jonathan Jackson), a cute auto-mutilator named Rachel (Tricia Vessey), and the soulful shrink shepherding them through the straits of their clichéd angst, Dr. Figure (Stephen Rea).
It's too clear from the start who is doomed and who will be redeemed, robbing On the Edge of tension and replacing it with a morbid feeling of inevitability. I was reminded of the beginning of Alive, during which I played a guilty game trying to distinguish the scavenger from the carrion. Too many trips to the same I Never Promised You a Rose Garden well bring up bucketfuls of stagnant, brackish water: It's deep, but we've plumbed these depths before and recently with such fare as Girl, Interrupted and 28 Days. On the Edge benefits from its quartet of fine, understated performances in addition to Carney's slick visual style and ear for quirky soundtrack choices, which run the gamut from Therapy? to The Pixies. He's no Wes Anderson, but he ain't bad.
Universal presents On the Edge on DVD in a nice 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that reproduces the Michael Almereyda-esque mute of Carney's colour palette faithfully. Shadow detail is excellent, contrast good, black levels fine. No edge enhancement mars the picture. Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio tracks are employed mostly in the reproduction of its soundtrack, with the 0.1 getting a bit of a tumble during a few of the rumbling basso notes. Dialogue is sharp and centred, though there is a decided lack of atmospherics--not really missed, frankly, in a film lacking in much in the way of action. Production notes, cast & crew filmographies, a trailer, and "recommendations" that show four video covers but no accompanying trailers (pretty lame) round out the disc. Originally published: May 14, 2002.