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Film / Over the Edge

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Over the Edge is a 1979 teen drama directed by Jonathan Kaplan (better known for producing and directing ER).

New Grenada, Colorado seems like the ideal community. Clean streets, nice houses, new schools. Unfortunately, the kids were left out of the plan, and have little to do in town besides drink and do drugs. Carl (Michael Eric Kramer), is a young man struggling between his desire to lead a normal life, and the delinquency of his friends.

But when Carl's father Fred (Andy Romano) starts cracking down on the delinquency in his town in a bid to attract a property developer, it drives Carl closer to delinquency, and drives the town closer to a breaking point.

Though it did poorly in the box office, it has become a cult classic. It's also notable for Matt Dillon's first role as Richie, Carl's delinquent friend.


Not to be confused with the similarly named but much more light hearted Animated Film Over the Hedge.

Tropes Are:

  • Adults Are Useless: Except for Julia, pretty much every adult.
  • Axes at School: 20 years before Columbine. Eventually they start using shotguns to blow up cars in the school parking lot.
  • Based on a True Story: New Grenada was based on Foster City, a Bay Area suburb where kids were engaged with alarming amounts of juvenile behavior. Many former residents of Foster City have commented on the events in the movie as Truth in Television, except for the kids attack on the high school, which was an invention of the filmmakers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Carl and his friends are sent to juvie for their attack on school, but their parents finally build them a community center, and they are able to get the help they need.
  • Advertisement:
  • Central Theme: Delinquency and how society can fail to tackle it.
  • Character Development:
    • Carl himself tries to avoid being a delinquent, but the repressive actions of his parents push him more and more into violence.
    • After Carl runs away, Fred realizes he has done little to invest in his children, and calls out the parents for the same thing at the town meeting.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Fred and Jerry aren't doing anything illegal, but stop the construction of a bowling alley and a roller skating rink in favor of a more profitable industrial park, to the chagrin of all the kids.
  • Dirty Cop: Doberman. He is not on the take, but his attempts to control delinquency go into abuse, and create more problems.
  • Disney Death: Richie.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Jerry Cole is this at the town meeting. Despite a kid getting shot, his main concern is attracting business. This causes Fred to angrily rant at the parents about how much they've been ignoring their children.
  • Every One Has Standards:Jerry tries to stop Doberman from arresting the kids after their riot recognizing he is not the ideal person to deal with the problem, to no avail.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: The two Texas businessmen whom Fred is trying to attract to the two fit some of the stereotypes, like ten gallons hats and Deep South accents. However, they are among the few perspective characters in the movie, and who warn Fred about everything he's doing wrong, to no avail.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The parents are more interested in personal gain than in building an environment where their kids can flourish, so the kids have to fill the void with drugs and violence, who are harassed by a police force that is more interested in cracking down on the kids than actually getting to the root of their problems, making the kids react more violently. Nobody is a saint.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Averted with Fred, who's a pretty responsible car salesman. He ability to understand his son is what needs a tune-up.
  • Jerkass: Doberman.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The town is full of delinquents, one of whom pulled a gun on him, so Doberman's frustration is understandable. But it's clear he is a part of the problem.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Richie is a violent youth, but he cares for Carl.
  • Karmic Death: Doberman is killed by one of the kids he harassed.
  • Kick the Dog: Doberman shutting down the rec center because one kid had drugs on him. And later shooting Richie. Yeah Richie did pull a gun on him, but Doberman had it in for him from the beginning.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Julia, the rec center counselor is the only person who really understands the kids needs. Unfortunately, the community blames her for everything and she is laid off, further angering the kids.
    • Mr Sloan, the Texas businessman, see above.
    • Carl among his classmates.
    • Fred, see Character Development.
  • Parental Neglect/Parents as People: The parents are clearly more interested in money and professional gain than in improving their children's lives.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: Richie getting shot by Doberman triggers the violent riot at the climax.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Mr. Sloan leaves after Carl sabotages his car with fireworks.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Everything the parents do to crackdown on their children's criminal tendencies only leads to even worse outbursts. Carl, who is warned his father to stay away from reform school, ends up there by the end of the movie. Mr. Sloan spells it out for Fred.
    Mr. Sloan: Seems to me like you all were in such a hopped-up hurry to get out of the city that you turned your kids into exactly what you were trying to get away from.
  • Suburbia: An extremely negative take at that, and based on a real life one. See above.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The film clearly takes the view that Richie was an innocent victim because his gun was empty, but this doesn't change how he pointed a weapon at a police officer, a target that is guaranteed to have both the means and the ability to shoot back.
  • Villain Has a Point: Doberman's defense that he had no idea the gun was empty is angrily dismissed out of hand by the other townsfolk (and the writers, presumably), even though it's a perfectly valid point: anyone who's ever had training with firearms knows they can never, ever assume a weapon pointed at them isn't loaded.