It seems odd that Stuart Gordon, the director best known for cult-schlock titles like Re-Animator, Robot Jox, Castle Freak, and Space Truckers, would be helming a a David Mamet-written film, but Gordon's association with Mamet goes way back to the Chicago stage. Regardless, Gordon's background in horror somehow fits Mamet's lowbrow aesthetic, despite the highbrow audience that usually gravitates towards Mamet's work. It certainly seems a good match for Edmond, which Mamet adapted from his own 1982 play, the punishing odyssey of a supernaturally naive, if ill-tempered, businessman (Mamet regular William H. Macy) who abruptly leaves his wife one night and, while walking the seedy city streets looking for sex, finds himself being ripped off left and right by strippers, prostitutes, three card Monte hustlers, and more – until he finally snaps.
Up through this moment, Mamet has nicely opened up his play for the screen. Soon after, however, when Macy meets up with Julia Stiles, playing a waitress, it's as though Mamet just copied and pasted the rest of his play into his film script, for at that point Edmond becomes very talky, very stagy. Gordon films it reasonably well, but this is an example of how, with the right cast, a writer like Mamet can make points in live theatre despite the unlikablility of his characters or the murkiness of his vision. But a motion picture requires more clarity and more sympathy. And while Edmond is never boring – not for a second – it is also never as good as the sum of its parts. Mamet explores issues of race, sex, violence, and the cruelty of the world, but it never gels into any cohesive theme. And the third act is merely a showcase for Macy's acting chops, prodigious though they may be.
I didn't dislike Edmond, but for all its physical and verbal brutality, it left me cold. In short, if you're not already a Mamet fan, this film won't convert you; rent House of Games or Things Change instead.