On The Edge: Review. By Rudie Obias
While the crime film genre is full of tropes (just like any genre), a filmmaker can make it more than the sum of its parts. Believe it or not, but most people want to watch something familiar rather than strange and obscure (this writer included), but it takes something special to make a movie that’s comforting, as well as re-assured. However, the Belgian-French-Spanish thriller On The Edge (Entre la vie et la mort) delivers on the whiz-bang action and hard-boiled suspense of a crime movie, but falls short of breaking through all of the genre’s clichés.
Written and directed by Giordano Gederlini (Samouraïs), On The Edge follows Leo Castañeda (played by Antonio de la Torre), a Spanish ex-cop living in Brussels as a subway conductor who witnesses the death of a young man who throws himself on subway tracks in an apparent suicide. When it’s revealed that the young man is his estranged son Hugo (played by Noé Englebert), Castañeda is caught in the middle between the underground crime world and Belgian police. He must now find out who really murdered his son, while avoiding professional criminals and the cops.
Even at 100 minutes, the film is a slow burn, while it draws out information at a deliberate rate. There are bursts of action and excitement, but a good chunk of the movie deals with Castañeda grieving his son. He lost his wife and family. And after a failed suicide attempt at the beginning of the film, Castañeda tries to re-build his life alone in Brussels. Although there are good and thrilling moments in the film, it just doesn’t come together. Instead it feels like the film is in search of an identity without creating one for itself.
In some ways, On The Edge could be a direct-to-video movie starring Liam Neeson, or Tim Roth or Sharlto Copley’s attempt to make a Taken-type of “old man gets revenge” movie (only Roth or Copley because Antonio de la Torre looks a lot like them). But that’s about it. And while there are some very good action scenes (a fantastic bus sequence) and moments of suspense (there’s a grenade in a jar scene that is brilliantly executed), there’s not much else here because of its familiar territory—there’s even an angry police chief who tells a police inspector that she’s off the case because she’s too close to it.
But as it stands, you’re not going to see much new in this film and there’s not much to hold on to either—unfortunately. It’s right down the middle for this reviewer, or maybe it’s just “on the edge” between mediocre and good.
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