Edge of Darkness – Review


Welcome back to acting, Mel.

In June 2006, Mel Gibson made headlines. It wasn’t for winning an award or something he did onscreen. It was for comments he made during a DUI stop. In his inebriated state, Gibson slurred anti-Semitic remarks toward the cop that pulled him over. Gibson is a very opinionated man offering up views on religion, politics and homosexuality, and that has made him a very polarizing figure. Which is probably why he’s sometimes labeled as Mad Mel. But in the aftermath of Gibson’s anti-Semitic outburst he’s been on a road to recovery, and now he’s ready for a comeback. Eight years after starring in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, Gibson returns in Edge of Darkness.

Political suspense thrillers have had an upswing in recent years thanks to the Jason Bourne films. Last year alone we got State of Play, The International and The Informant!, though that last example is more of a whistle-blowing comedy. In our current environment with bank bailouts and an ever-increasing national debt, political conspiracies are perfect cinematic fodder.

Edge of Darkness is a suspense thriller that disguises itself as a revenge flick. Knowing little about the BBC mini-series of the mid-‘80s, it makes it that much easier to enjoy the surprises that lay in wait. The advertising already points out that Mel Gibson’s character, Thomas Craven, is a Boston police detective out to avenge the death of his daughter Emma. Racked with guilt and grief, Craven investigates and uncovers a web of intrigue that goes all the way up to our nation’s Capitol.

Martin Campbell, who has successively rebooted the James Bond franchise not once but twice (Goldeneye and Casino Royale), was also responsible for helming the original BBC series. Condensing a six-hour series into a manageable two-hour film is a hell of a task, but Campbell has managed to create a modern thriller with seventies grit. Picture The China Syndrome but starring the love child of Charles Bronson and Doris Day.

It’s been three decades since Gibson became an international star with films like Mad Max and later the Lethal Weapon franchise. He’s also directed one of the best action epics of the last twenty years with Braveheart. Say what you will about some of the shocking things he’s said in the past, moviegoers can be a forgiving audience. Gibson has a natural presence onscreen and it’s a presence that’s been missing in movies.

For Darkness, Mel doesn’t overstep his bounds. Even though he’s acted as Hamlet, William Monahan’s (The Departed) script rehashes familiar territory: an emotional wreck of a character whose pain is absolved by getting revenge on the bad guys. It’s the perfect comeback vehicle.

So why should we care? Maybe it’s because Campbell frames several shots where there is a clear height disparity between Gibson and his co-stars. He appears sunken and tired, and if you look closely at his weathered countenance, two diagonal lines cut across the creases on either side of his forehead. To look at his face is to know everything about his character. But don’t let his age fool you, because he has no problem delivering extreme justice to those who try to stand in his way.

As Craven starts to investigate Emma’s death, uncovering the life that he kept at arm’s length, he confronts acquaintances of hers, many of who are fearful of their lives. The only one who isn’t is the mysterious figure Darius Jedburgh (played to scene-stealing perfection by Ray Winstone). He’s a “cleaner” that would appear to be in cahoots with the organization that is responsible for Emma’s death. But he takes his time before deciding on how to act, letting us know that his own set of rules may not adhere to those of his contractors.

With a heavy Boston accent Gibson really nails the working-class hero archetype, and when he shows his anger everyone within a ten-block radius knows it. Though Gibson’s veracity does carry a drawback in his scenes with Danny Huston. Huston’s character is the head of the research facility where Emma was employed. In their scenes together Huston is submissive as a sniveling little snot that would rather piss himself than try to retaliate. Consequentially, they are the weakest moments in the film.

At two hours, Edge of Darkness has a plodding second act where the viewer has to catch on to the enormity of what Craven is dealing with. But Martin Campbell rewards our patience with an action-heavy finale. It’s on a smaller scale compared to Casino Royale, but it’s just as brutal. The violence notwithstanding, it may be the conversational moments between Gibson and Winstone that are the most memorable. They give what would ordinarily be a typical action-thriller some much needed gravitas – providing just enough of a slow burn before the Gibson delivers the big payback.

Director: Martin Campbell
Notable Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston
Writer(s): William Monahan, Andrew Bovell

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