River's Edge is to me, many things. It is the proper telling of a story similar to Bully (Larry Clark's horrible film), only not flaccid and bare boned. It is a story of the 80's style of life, seen through the group of rockers and druggies. Age is clearly not an issue here.
Keanu Reeves (In his second best performance) plays Matt, a lone wolf slacker who enjoys smoking dope and screaming at his step dad. Mat is only one of a close-knit group of ragtag friends that spend their time doing the same things. John is an overweight asshole who tells his friends he killed his girlfriend. They don't believe him, who would? Meeting up with Layne, (Crispin Glover in a life changing performance) they decide to see if he is all talk.
After grabbing a group of friends to go see the body, everyone is shocked to find out he was serious. He strangled her to death for talking bad about his mom. I will make a note on this scene. It is actually pretty disturbing in it's own right for featuring what might be the most realistic dead body without a huge budget or using the real thing. Eyes are filmed over and nails long and dirty. Truly a saddening view. Layne thinks she deserved it. Layne is obviously too naive in his nature to understand the situation at hand. He wants to hide the body, but John has no interest in hiding from the police. So Layne does the only thing one man could do in this situation, hide John with the local nut.
Meet Feck. Dennis Hopper plays a pothead ex-murderer who is in love with a blowup doll named Ellie. He is also missing his left leg. Not only does the set-up promises one of the more quirkier and insane characters but it actually builds a lot to the film. We learn motives behind both killers and the difference between love and loss and the methods of killing.
The film River's Edge was the only good thing to come out of Tim Hunter's career. He seemed to have dropped out of film early and has directed episodes for the most popular shows around. Such as Twin Peaks, House, C.S.I., and Law & Order. It's easy to note his detective work behind the camera on these shows.
The real star material here is Dennis Hopper and Crispin Glover. They deliver a mean son-of-a-bitch acting job. First we have Hopper, who is a delusional man that suffers every day of his life in what appears to be a loose connection to his character in Easy Rider. I frown upon people who still think his role in Blue Velvet is his finest. They obviously have not seen this film.
Then we have Crispin Glover, who might be the most aggressive actor ever filmed. His body language fits perfectly with his moods. His screams and whines echo long after the movie is over and he has the most screen time. River's Edge is the perfect teen drama. It takes the true story and amplifies it with characters probably more interesting than the actual case. Not too deep for the average viewer but just enough to satisfy the obscure cinephile.
"Check's in the mail"