Written and directed by: Aleksandr Boguslavskiy & Francesco Cinquemani
Starring: Milos Bikovic, Antonio Banderas, Vilen Babichev, Sergey Astakhov, Lyubov Aksyonova, and Anastasiya Anikhovskaya
A CGI-Infused Betting Extravaganza out of Left Field
Beyond the Edge, the eponymous title sums it up beautifully. The film begins fabulously well. A common criminal concocts an ingenious plan to ‘lighten the load’ at a casino. Suave, sophisticated, and debonair, the strikingly handsome Maykl (portrayed by Serbian talent Milos Bikovic) cuts a fine form in this caper.
He is the epitome of cool; matinee idol good looks – a veritable Billy Ocean-type character. He oozes confidence as the ultimate conman plying his trade against hapless gamblers. After successfully marking the VIPs, he sets about initiating an ambitious plan, 3 months in the making.
The convoluted scheme unravels beautifully, as Maykl plays his way to a fortune at the private tables of the VIP arena. Unfortunately, something completely unexpected transpires, upending his plans and landing him in a formidable spot of bother. Up until this point, the story is a believable casino heist caper.
What Just Happened Here?
The screenplay undergoes a paradigm shift at this juncture, writers Aleksandr Boguslavskiy and Francesco Cinquemani decided to set the proverbial cat among the pigeons by introducing meta-humans, alternative realities, and supernatural forces. More of that later in our review.
At this turning point, our protagonist finds himself strapped to a chair, being physically assaulted by the casino boss and his henchmen. The cliched scene plays out much to expectations, ‘Where’s the Money!’ Maykl’s ruse is up, and he is given 7 days to recover a nifty sum of 5 million pounds, or else. This story could have gone in any number of directions at this point, but this sci-fi angle seemed particularly alluring to the writers/directors.
What follows is a confusing and disjointed sequence of events ultimately leading to a team of anti-hero meta-humans being rounded up. The concept itself is nothing new, and frequently plays out in Marvel and DC Comics lore. We know these characters well – humans with superhero abilities.
An Eclectic Combination of Genres
One has no choice but to suspend disbelief at this point, even though the story could have worked beautifully well without introducing this absolutely bizarre sci-fi angle. Our hero, Maykl is tasked with assembling a group of misfits with extraordinary abilities. One character has the ability to hypnotize people and make them do whatever he wants, another can disrupt electronic communications, another can read minds, and so forth.
From here on in, the story will either fascinate you with its borrowings from other films such as Contact, The Matrix, Oceans 11, Inception and other wild concept-movies. Unfortunately, Beyond the Edge fails at its most basic purpose: to captivate our attention and remain an engaging slice of action adventure.
The thrust of the movie is outwitting casino players and bringing down the house. Such ambitious undertakings are the stuff of overactive minds, not present-day realities. Perhaps it is for this reason that Beyond the Edge finds an audience among us. It is escapism par excellence, and it fuses several entertaining elements into a 1h 41 minute fantasy adventure. What began as a truly fascinating shell game devolved into a paper-thin storyline with bubblegum appeal. Once you’ve chewed on this film for its duration, it quickly loses its flavor and is best forgotten.
A Testament to the Magnificence of Casino Gaming
Kudos to the directors for capturing the excitement at the casino, particularly the Craps Tables, Roulette Wheels and Texas Hold’em games. There’s plenty of authenticity in the gambling side of things to make this an enjoyable, adrenaline-loaded flick for the casino players among us. The airplane which serves as one of the casinos in the film is authentic, and it really featured a game room. The gambling scenes are quite possibly the best aspects of the movie.
Artfully decked out casinos capture the high roller appeal of the lively craps tables and roulette tables. The casino tables are packed several players deep, as one would expect from these glittering venues. The audience barely gets to understand the characters, before the film’s runtime runs out. It’s a film about calculated odds, big paydays, and the power of the pack.
And then there’s Antonio Banderas – the father of our unsung hero. His role in the film is underdeveloped, yet central to the storyline. He is a mastermind criminal, a failure as a father, but determined to right the wrongs of the past. Together the two of them team up to explore the ‘ethereal realm of the subconscious’, tapping into the all-encompassing source of data in the universe.
This is somewhat of an obscure and abstract alternate reality which continually pervades the film with a decidedly jarring effect. Various sub-themes work their way into Beyond the Edge, including a budding romance, time travel, and lots of cognitive dissonance.
Don’t expect Casino, Goodfellas, or even Oceans 11 – this is everything and nothing at the same time. Perhaps they bit off more than they could chew, perhaps not – you’ll just have to watch them spin that roulette wheel and roll those dice for yourself!