What Not To Watch: On the Edge (2002)
When Fred Williamson made the jump from professional football to the world of acting back in 1968, I am not sure that anybody could have predicted that “The Hammer” would have the staying power he has had. Fred Williamson’s acting career continues to this day and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.
But anyone, whether they are a classically trained thespian or an athlete turned actor, who has been working in Hollywood for any length of time is going to be susceptible to a stinker or two over the course of their career. 2002’s On the Edge would fall into the stinker category for Fred Williamson…
- The Paint By Numbers Premise: Willie Jo Harris is a high school basketball sensation. College recruiters are wining and dining Willie Jo and on the surface the future could not look brighter for him. But one bad decision has Willie Jo’s future in doubt… Willie Jo crossed paths with the local drug kingpin known as Slim Jim (Ice-T, Judgment Day) and now finds himself the target of Slim Jim’s wrath. Willie Jo does not trust the cops so he turns to a former cop/private investigator Dakota Smith (Fred Williamson). Dak, as he is known to his friends, has a reputation for taking the law into his own hands and getting things done… On the Edge did not exactly break new ground with this storyline, although in fairness the same could probably be said for 90% or more of the movies reviewed on this site. And in On the Edge’s defense they did throw in one element that did make it stand out.. when a hit is put out on Willie Jo, the two hitmen screw up the address and end up killing the wrong kid! I am freestyling here, but it feels like Linda Williamson (the writer of the film and Fred’s wife) either came up with this idea of a bungled hit or read about something like that actually happening and thought that would be great for a movie but then had to fill in the other 90 minutes.
- Original Gangstas: Joining Fred Williamson in On the Edge are some of his longtime colleagues like Jim Brown, who plays Chad Grant, the man in charge of the community center that has helped nurture the basketball career of Willie Jo. Superfly himself, Ron O’Neal (in his final film) plays Willie Jo’s father in the movie, Frank Harris. And then there’s Richard Roundtree… oh wait, no we don’t get Richard Roundtree… he must not have been available that week so instead we get Bernie Casey. Casey plays Rex Stevens, the father of the high school b-baller who was mistakenly shot and the man who partners up with Dak to take down Slim Jim and the men who are responsible for the death of Rex’s son. Williamson and Casey are the primary heroes of the film, but as the movie goes on Jim Brown and Ron O’Neal get in on the action too. All of them piss off the cops, none of them give a damn. Seeing all these experienced black actors under one roof would have been pretty amazing had it not been done six years prior in Original Gangstas.
- The Villains: I already mentioned the drug dealing Slim Jim played by Ice-T, but he is not the only villain in the film. On the Edge goes the mysterious boss route (spoiler alert it is the dirty police commissioner) and they also throw a wildcard into the mix, a hitman named Felix. Felix was portrayed by the always engaging Gary Busey. The Felix character is easy to hate. Felix kills people (as per his job description). Felix abducts Dak’s much younger girlfriend Judy as she is getting out of the shower, adding a level of perversion to the Felix character. But without any kind of backstory, the Felix character lacked the depth to make him truly memorable and it was not a character that Busey could sink his giant teeth into.
I have watched and reviewed movies much worse than On the Edge that starred a notable name in the action entertainment genre like a Fred Williamson. Normally I would deter most of the movie going public from wasting their time but add in the caveat that if you are a big fan of the star of the film it would be worth giving it a “one and done” look… that’s not the case with On the Edge. Even if you enjoy the work of Fred Williamson, I would not go to the trouble of watching On the Edge, especially considering the huge number of Fred Williamson movies that you could watch instead that would not feel like a complete waste of time.
The tagline for On the Edge was “Nobody Escapes the Streets”… well nobody escapes one of my reviews without checking out some Bonus Bullet Points…
- If You Never: …wanted to see Fred Williamson’s 64 year old bare ass, then this is NOT the movie for you.
- Generic Brand: While the premise may not have been the most original in movie history, the most generic thing about On the Edge may have been the title. There were several “On the Edges” before 2002’s On the Edge (like the 1986 version starring Bruce Dern, Pam Grier and John Marley) and after 2002’s On the Edge (like the 4 hour documentary on scooters, skateboarders and BMX riders from 2010).
- Introducing: On the Edge introduced Derrick Franklin to the world of acting (he played Willie Jo) and then quickly showed him the door. Franklin never starred in another feature film after this. That tells you the skill level of Franklin and/or how much Franklin enjoyed his On the Edge experience.
- If You Never: …wanted to see Fred Williamson lick the titties of a woman half his age, then this is NOT the movie for you.