A playwright of David Mamet's esteem should know better: No matter how skilled or famous you are, you don't mess with Mother Nature.

Mamet, who wrote the award-winning plays "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "American Buffalo," as well as the screenplays for "The Verdict" and "The Untouchables," tackles a couple of Hollywood's hoariest cliches with "The Edge" - the outdoor action/adventure and "buddy" film genres. But not completely successfully.Give the man points for trying, though. Mamet's somewhat original script almost succeeds in breathing new life into the genre - with some huge assistance from star Anthony Hopkins and a menacing Kodiak bear - before making a fatal miscalculation in plotting toward the end.

Consequently, despite some very exciting moments, this latest man-vs.-nature film is an ultimately unfulfilling ride.

Hopkins stars as Charles Morris, a billionaire bookworm married to a beautiful fashion model (Elle Macpherson). As the film begins, Charles reluctantly agrees to accompany his young bride on a photo shoot in the Alaskan wilderness.

Almost immediately, he clashes with fashion photographer Bob Green (Alec Baldwin), who's obviously attracted to his wife. Perhaps to keep an eye on his "rival," Charles flies with Bob to an even more remote location to find an outdoorsman that Bob would like to photograph.

However, as fate would have it, their plane crashes, and the two men are forced to put aside their differences, as they try to make their way back to civilization. Of course, they have a big obstacle in their way - a ferocious bear that's developed a taste for humans, after chomping down on another crash survivor, Stephen (Harold Perrineau).

These scenes are terrific, thanks to tense direction from Lee Tama-hori ("Once Were Warriors," "Mulholland Falls"), spectacular scenic photography and a film-stealing performance by local animal performer Bart the Bear. (Bart and trainer Doug Seus live in Midway.)

Unfortunately, there's much more to the movie, which not only spoils the camaraderie between Hopkins and Baldwin's characters, it also ends things on an unconvincing note.

As mentioned, Hopkins is superb. His multilayered performance adds some much needed depth to things. Also, his easy chemistry with his co-stars, especially Baldwin and Perrineau, is a joy to behold.

But that is undermined by some inconsistent characterizations, slow initial pacing and Mamet's at-times stilted dialogue, which sounds too much like staged monologues.

And let's also say that Mamet easily meets his expected swear-word quotient with this script as well.

"The Edge" is rated R for violence, considerable profanity and gore.