Let’s face it, the concept of a horde of ruthless buggers taking the owners of an isolated house captive, setting up a consequent revenge narrative, is hardly a new one. In fact, this is pure, 80s, straight-to-video. Nothing wrong with that: judge a film by its cover in Blockbuster, that’s what we all did. Many wonderful films base themselves on this premise: Straw Dogs, Panic Room, Sunday in the Country, Lady in a Cage, The Strangers, Don’t Breathe, Angst. Edge of Fear takes this much-emulated filmic strategy into 2018, and its success will be based purely on how it establishes itself away from the chaff.
In a totally unnecessary, hackneyed set-up, stereotypical hedge fund manager Mike Dwyer (Rockmond Dunbar) suffers a heart attack and is saved by stereotypical heart surgeon Patrick (Shen Lin). Patrick and his stereotypically pretty wife Laura (Zhu Zhu) are invited over to Dwyer’s stereotypical country retreat, where we are served up by a stereotypical scene of surgeon and patient hunting stag together. Meanwhile, a bus of stereotypical convicts is travelling along a local road when they are intercepted by a rescue team for stereotypical prison incumbent Victor Novac (Robert Knepper), a stereotypical Mexican crime lord. I’ll stop now, but you get my point. The rescue team are headed up by the T-1000, apologies, Jack Pryor (Robert Patrick), whose plans fail when a stray police bullet punctures whatever part of a Hollywood car is irreparably damaged by a stray bullet. Our ghastly antagonists need a base until help can arrive and unfortunately for Dwyer and his surgeon family, the nearest house is theirs.
It’s hardly a spoiler to say Patrick gets a knife in his chest early on. Most of the film is post-injury, so the audience is forced to witness the surgeon’s continuous mithering throughout. He continually checks a heart monitor whose output, unless you’re medically trained, adds very little to the viewer’s assessment of his predicament. He then attempts a one-man assault on the apparently inexperienced military rescue squad, to free his imprisoned wife.
Roth’s characters are two-dimensional: only Knepper’s Novac demonstrates any kind of conflict. It’s goodies versus baddies all the way, from intro to credits, and it suffers for that. It’s only fair to give credit to Patrick’s struggles with a terrible injury, rather than playing the super-human strength card. But watching someone writhe around in agony for an hour while trying to resolve a situation, makes you ache for an unrealistic Schwarzenegger level of impact tolerance. Andy Mackenie’s Worm is probably the best of the obviously doomed baddies but maybe that’s name over character. This kind of daftness is entirely acceptable and enjoyable, as long as there is a mammoth amount of tongue firmly wedged in the cheek. Roth, however, takes a far too serious angle for any of this to be fun. Also, the script is at times painful, the awkward explanation of the purpose of a hedge fund (which miraculously made the trailer) typically excruciating.
Edge of Fear struggles to raise its head above the murky waters of b-movie exploitation. There are moments of interest and enjoyable violence, but overall it labours to garner enough interest from the isolated situation to engage.
Dir: Bobby Roth
Scr: Scott Barkan, Gregg Zehentner, Daxing Zhang
Cast: Shen Lin, Zhu Zhu, Robert Patrick, Robert Knepper, Andy Mackenzie, Rockmond Dunbar, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe
Prd: Phillip B. Goldfine, Danny Roth, Damiano Tucci, Zhaohui Wang, Daxing Zhang
DOP: Tom Camarda
Music: Richard Patrick
Run Time: 91 minutes