On the Edge (Lev Staerkt): Goteborg Review
Rising stars Cyron Melville, Danica Curcic and Jacob Oftebro star in the teen-skewed drama about racing freaks in Copenhagen who take a wrong turn, directed by Christian E. Christiansen.
When a gang of illegal street racers make a fatal wrong turn, friendship and loyalty are tested in trashy Danish melodrama On the Edge. Directed by Christian E. Christiansen (who made the tacky Leighton Meester-vehicle The Roommate), Edge seems aimed at a teen or slightly older demographic, but it has less moral complexity or subtlety than one of those Afterschool Specials from the ‘70s. Plus points include watchable performances from the attractive young leads, especially the core love triangle of Cyron Melville, Danica Curcic and Jacob Oftebro, and some nifty racing sequences early on, clearly strong enough factors to have helped generate sales beyond Denmark to Russia, Japan and France, among other territories.
In their early twenties or thereabouts, working class Copenhagen lads Nik (Melville) and Martin (Oftebro) spend most of their time hanging out with their buddies fixing cars, talking about cars and racing cars. An early sequence that seems cribbed straight out of The Fast and the Furious playbook shows them drag-racing rivals in an industrial part of town before the cops break up the party. Moving on to a nightclub, it becomes clear that Martin is sweet on Signe (Curcic), although the two aren’t quite an official item yet.
A fight breaks out with a rival racing gang, and as a prank Martin steals the rival gang’s car and Nik challenges him to a competently filmed high-speed street race around town for fun. But their adrenalin high soon comes crashing down when Martin accidentally collides head on with a young woman, who dies later, and overturns the stolen vehicle. Nik and the others take off before the law shows up, leaving Martin to take the full blame for the incident, eventually earning a jail sentence.
While a devastated and guilt-ridden Martin recovers in hospital and does time, Nik comforts Signe, and before long the two are having an affair. Their newfound love is overshadowed, however, by Nik’s own sense of guilt for egging Martin on in the first place and for not copping to his share of the blame for the accident. Most of all, he’s wracked by shame when he learns that Signe’s sister died years ago in a car crash caused by another unknown hit-and-run driver, and so Nik knows things will never be right between them unless he fesses up.
Viewers who might have felt engaged by the vehicular hijinks in the first reel might start feel like they’ve been sold a lemon later on when the characters forsake driving for agonizing instead in that inimitable, decorative way that people can only achieve in Scandinavian films. It helps a bit that the actors all have such lovely lanky limbs and perfect injection-moulded cheekbones, but their weepiness becomes a bit of a drag over the long haul. Still, even if word-of-mouth ends up dampening the film’s fortunes, casting agents abroad were would be wise to check out Melville and Curcic (both of whom have been boosted this year by European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars showcase in Berlin) and especially Oftebro, whose performance may be the real standout here.
DoP Ian Hansen does good work with the nocturnal racing segments, with strong assist from editor Michael Bauer Nielsen, but the shaky handheld feel in the dramatic scenes is a cliché of Nordic cinema now. A trite, sentimental musical score by Mikkel Malta and twee soundtrack choices make the film feel more skewed to teenage girls friendly than the filmmakers might have intended.
Venue: Goteborg Film Festival (Nordic Film Market; also in Rotterdam film festival)
Production: Zentropa Entertainments in co-production with Film I Vast, M2Film
Cast: Jakob Oftebro, Danica Curcic, Cyron Melville
Director: Christian E. Christiansen
Screenwriter: Morten Dragsted, Christiansen
Producers: Jakob Balslev, Senia Dremstrup, Louise Vesth
Executive producers: Peter Aalbaek Jensen, Mads Munk, Kenneth D. Plummer
Director of photography: Ian Hansen
Costume designer: Kirsten Zaschke
Editor: Michael Bauer Nielsen
Music: Mikkel Malta
No rating, 85 minutes