The early press on Edmond has focused largely on the screenplay’s racial and violent content, but very little on its actual themes. Scripted by David Mamet and based on his 1982 play written in the wake of a divorce, the film’s politically incorrect language and bursts of bloodshed are merely asides to a darkly brilliant exploration into how men define their masculinity.
Edmond Burke, in yet another fantastic performance by William H. Macy, decides one day to leave his wife. He no longer loves her, he’s bored, he’s wasted his life. That’s it. Where another film would’ve spent another half hour carefully outlining all the reasoning, Edmond throws its audience, along with it’s titular lead character, into a single night in which he will try to wrest some control from a life he feels he no longer directs. Feeling completely emasculated, he ventures into New York City’s underbelly to find something that will make him feel like a man again.
Edmond’s journey finds him trying to assert himself sexually, violently, financially and otherwise with results that are shocking, hilarious and disturbing, sometimes all at the same time. The morally corrupted schemers and lowlifes that are usually the focus of Mamet’s work are merely catalysts here for Edmond’s rite of passage. And though written in the '80s, it thematically not only addresses masculinity but simply how we communicate in society that values capitalism over personal relationships.
The film itself is very good, with some wonderful supporting roles -- particularly by Joe Mantegna and Mena Suvari. However, Edmond misses being great due to merely competent direction. Helmed by Stuart Gordon, best known for his ‘80s cult hit Re-Animator, his over-the-top, distracting gore and unsure hand with some of the dramatic scenes (particularly the sequence involving Macy and Suvari) are disappointing. Even Macy’s makeup for the final act of the film elicited laughter from the audience, and it's unfortunate, because the closing scenes bring the Edmond and its themes to an astonishing close. One wonders at the masterpiece Edmond could’ve been in the hands of a more seasoned dramatic director, or in those of Mamet himself.