Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 12/01/06 14:42:39

"Macy rules, but you knew that. It's hard to be a Man, but you knew that."
3 stars (Average)

In "Edmond," based on the brief and bitter play of the same name by David Mamet (who also scripted), the eponymous protagonist (William H. Macy) goes for a walk on his own personal nightside. It's Mamet's nightside, too -- a catalog of all the bad things that can befall a denatured, feminized man trying to assert his Manhood after too many years out of practice. "Edmond" is presented as the cold truth, but it's really just the truth of how the masculinist Mamet feels.

Edmond decides it's time to ditch his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) and, indeed, his sheltered life and go a little bit mad. After an encounter with Joe Mantegna as a barfly who says things like "N------ have it easy," Edmond hits the streets in search of fast, easy sexual gratification. (Also inexpensive -- he's constantly objecting to the going rate for sex acts.) Gradually his civility is stripped away and he embraces a new, honest, violent, fearless way of living, in which he can beat down black pimps with impunity and woo a waitress (Julia Stiles) to bed with no more suave an invitation than "I want to fuck you."

Edmond has been smoothly directed by Stuart Gordon, leaving his low-budget horror films behind to return to his Chicago roots, wherein his Organic Theater Company produced work by fledgling playwright ... David Mamet. Gordon's style here finds a workable balance between the mean-streets paranoia of Martin Scorsese's After Hours and the affectless netherworld of fellow Chicagoan John McNaughton's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Macy enacts the sort of imploding sad sack he could play in his sleep but doesn't. Taking Edmond from despair to rage to euphoria all the way into madness, Macy is profoundly human and frightening.

It's a riveting character piece, but underneath it all is Mamet the cynical puppetmaster who tells you life's a big three-card-monte game and everyone's out to screw you. (Including him?) I enjoy Glengarry Glen Ross and American Buffalo as much as the next movie geek, but it turns out those two seminal works say pretty much all Mamet has to say. Most everything else in his portfolio, including Edmond, is a reiteration of his pet theme that you've got to be smarter and more ruthless than the other rats if you want to get the cheese. And it's by no means clear that Mamet condemns this attitude. Edmond's ultimate fate seems to be less cautionary than the ultimate pure expression of love (and it doesn't even have to involve women -- those duplicitous sluts!).

Three stars because it offers Macy at peak efficiency and passion, and a welcome change of pace for Stuart Gordon. Two stars docked because it shows and tells nothing new, especially to those who've taken the Mamet ride before (and most especially those who've seen "Oleanna," which similarly offers Macy as a sap whose splintering white male privilege spurs him to hateful speech and violence). Essential for fans of any of the above three, though.

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