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Edmond
cast: William H. Macy, Julia Stiles, Mena Suvari, Denise Richards, and Bai Ling

director: Stuart Gordon

82 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Edmond (William H. Macy) is a quiet, simple wage slave, and a man who dislikes being a cog in the machine but knows nothing else. Until he visits a fortuneteller, is informed that he is not where he is supposed to be, and his life changes forever.

On paper, this looks like a classic. Directed by the legendary Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dagon), and written by David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, Spartan), Edmond has an incredibly high pedigree. It's only lifted further by the cast - with Mamet regulars Rebecca Pidgeon, Julia Styles and Joe Mantegna joined by some of the smartest, most interesting character actors working today, of which Macy is surely the most impressive.

It should be a classic. Instead, it's a mess. The early, supernatural menace of Edmond's tarot reading is replaced by a growing suspicion that Mamet is at best unsure of what direction to take the story and at worst ranting about how difficult it is for successful middle-class white men to get ahead in the world and be happy. There's none of the sense of brutal, testosterone-fuelled intellect that is at the heart of Glengarry Glen Ross, none of the laconic physicality of Spartan or the melancholy of Homicide or House Of Games. Instead, Mamet provides us with a series of vignettes which chronicle Edmond's downward spiral, from his initial encounter with his wife (Pidgeon), to a conversation with an extremely sinister, possibly supernatural figure in an anonymous city bar (Mantegna) and a violent card shark (Dule Hill).

The problem is, they all make the same point. Hill and Mantegna in particular do good work, with Hill unrecognisable from his likable, quiet Charlie on The West Wing, but each vignette has the same plot arc; Edmond encounters someone, Edmond is manipulated or attacked, Edmond leaves. It only gets worse when you look at Edmond's interactions with women. Pidgeon, Styles, Suvari and even Richards all turn in genuinely excellent work which is orders of magnitude better than the script they are forced to work with. Pidgeon's dismissive wife, Suvari and Richards' mercenary whores, and Styles' wide eyed, intellectual victim are all massively stereotypical and massively misogynistic.

However, even they pale in comparison with Bokeem Woodbine, who surely has one of the most thankless tasks in recent cinema. As Edmond's eventual cellmate, he's required to not only be a stereotypical violent black man but also to spout pseudo-philosophical dialogue, rape Macy, and eventually become more of a husband than he himself ever was. Despite his best efforts, to say nothing of Macy's, the final 20 minutes border on un-watchable.

As for Macy, he's one of those actors who simply does not know how to turn in a bad performance. A crumpled, perpetually aggrieved figure, he somehow manages to find something consistent in Edmond and whilst there are moments of disaster (Edmond's barely coherent rant to Styles being one) which are disastrous but somehow Macy keeps the character on an even keel, even through the film's weakest moments.

Despite the best efforts of the cast and Gordon, whose direction has never been tighter or more considered; this is an abject mess. Mamet should have, and has, turned in far, far better work than this.
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