April 28, 2023

ON THE EDGE and Some Paternal Payback

ON THE EDGE (on Blu-ray & VOD)
2022 / 100 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

Though not quite suicidal, Leo Castañeda (Antonio De La Torre) doesn’t appear to care whether he lives or dies. At first, we aren’t quite sure why. He doesn't open up much, nor is writer-director Giordano Gederlini in a hurry to enlighten us. But that's a big part of what makes On the Edge such an intriguing thriller, though its original Belgian title, Entre La Vie La Mort (Between Life and Death), more accurately describes both the protagonist and the overall tone.

The story does begin with a suicide, though. Just after Leo begins his shift as a metro subway operator, a young man throws himself in front of the train. The investigator in charge, Virginie (Marine Vacth), later learns the kid was Leo’s estranged son, whom he hadn’t seen for a couple of years. Leo doesn’t reveal why he didn’t inform her right away, but he’s obviously shocked and distraught by the incident. Since we learn his wife also died six years earlier, it’s no wonder that carrying on alone isn't a high priority.

Leo’s indifference to living gives him something of an advantage when he’s threatened by a crew of robbers who committed a deadly heist, which coincidentally, Virginie is in the middle of investigating. It turns out Leo’s son participated in the heist and was shot before driving off with the money. Now the crew wants the cash back and thinks Leo has it. Virginie also suspects Leo knows a lot more about the entire subway incident than he’s willing to say.

Brussels' scariest DoorDash driver.
To reveal much more about the plot would be to ruin some terrific surprises. The basic narrative is actually pretty straightforward…Leo obviously wants to avenge his son by hunting down his killers, while Virginie struggles to remain on the case (for distinctly  personal reasons). However, revelations are slowly revealed about both - at opportune times during the story - which not only increase our investment in them, they create a lot of “a-ha” moments related to previous scenes.

Leo himself is a great character. Despite never saying much, we understand what compels him. And while he doesn’t look or act like your typical man of action, he’s very resourceful and calculating. Speaking of which, the action itself is sparse and presented without much embellishment, but it’s generally pretty exciting and mostly believable. 

On the Edge is fast paced and stylishly directed, making great use of various Brussels locations (mostly at night). Tension-filled almost from the get-go, this neo-noir thriller methodically sucks’the viewer in with its revenge-themed story, engaging lead characters and excellent performances (De La Torre, in particular). It's an under-the-radar gem not to be missed.

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