River's Edge. 1986. dir. Tim Hunter
"Hey man, keep your HANDS OFF CLARISSA." - Layne
With a stellar cast featuring the multi-talented Keanu Reeves, the (truly) multi-talented Dennis Hopper, the lovely Ione Skye, and a post-George McFly Crispin Glover, this film about a small town murder and the apathetic attitudes among the friends of the victim and killer is a delicious tale of dead-end kids who are heading for the black hole. Like most of the other 80s teen films, parents either neglect or abuse their children. However, the impulses that drive one teen to murder his girlfriend are mysterious. Was it a man trying to claim dominance over a woman? Was it a combination of drugs and Slayer that drove him to strangle her? Or was it sheer boredom?
Without trying to divulge too much information about the film, Feck (Dennis Hopper) makes a point that sometimes you have to kill people. Everyone is born with some evil in them. However, some people are special cases. Some have an imbalance of too much evil, in which they are a threat to society. Feck knows this, he philosphizes about it. It isn't just the pot talking either.
The best acting in this film comes from Hopper. During the same year, he played Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. Thus, 1986 was the year for Hopper to show the world how crazy he could be. Feck is the more compassionate of the two characters, however, as he has a gentler disposition (possibly due to pot). If anyone could match his mental instability, though, it was Crispin Glover's performance of Layne. Layne often drives under the influence of beer, pot, and speed in his VW, with Slayer perpetually blasting out the windows. His odd vocal inflections, overdramatic movements, and perpetual look of nervousness brand him as an instantly memorable character (he even laughs at the end of the quote above, obviously a reference to a film he recently acted in).
Overall, I highly recommend this film. The soundtrack isn't too cheesy (mostly Slayer and some great soul songs). Keanu doesn't ruin it (he looks trashy enough to fit in). And Hopper and Glover turn out some great performances. I like to refer to the film as Blue Velvet light, you know, something you can quote around with friends. You can quote Blue Velvet, but you'll probably get in a lot of trouble for that.
View the trailer here: