On DVD: Edge of Darkness

Mel Gibson returns to suitable form in “Edge of Darkness,” a revenged-fueled thriller by the producer and writer of “The Departed.” It’s not that anyone doubted Gibson’s prowess, especially in a role with motivation as clear as “you people killed my daughter and when I prove it I’m going to make you pay in ways you never imagined.” For some reason, we expected him to be rattled after eight years off which included his infamous DUI and the subsequent racist and anti-Semitic rants. The role of police detective Thomas Craven works for him. Heaps of praise are not warranted here, but this complicated mystery is a decent flick that he pilots with ease.

The premise here is last year’s surprise hit “Taken” mixed with your typical corporate and government cover-up thriller. The former is Gibson’s specialty: adding some emotion to the hardened cop role, and these days he comes at a cheaper price than Bruce Willis. The latter is writer William Monahan’s specialty, the writer who weaved together the many characters of “The Departed” into a top-notch suspense film. The issue is the two don’t work in tandem as well as they should. Certain scenes are dedicated to Craven’s emotional side such as hallucinations of his daughter as a child or her talking to him. Others are dedicated to Gibson finding out about the crazy nature of his daughters work and exposing the truth.

“Edge of Darkness” feels like two scripts that someone tried to make into one. I’ve no idea what the BBC program the film is based on was like, but perhaps it had more time to make both plots operate together as one. Monahan and Andrew Bovell’s version rushes through both.

The better-executed part is by far the conspiracy. It’s not all that complicated, but the information whips by and much of it comes out of Ray Winstone’s unintelligible mouth, magnifying the problem. Winstone plays a cover-up specialist looking into the death of Craven’s daughter. Named Jedburgh, his motivation is unknown. While initially Craven believes he was the intended target of the bullet that took down his daughter, we quickly learn that’s not the case from Jedburgh. Craven digs into her past (their relationship wasn’t very open prior to her death), finding out she worked for a nuclear power manufacturer headed by Jack Bennett, played by Danny Huston, an actor with a reputation for playing the dislikable character without overdoing it. As it turns out, she might have been trying to expose something.

Considering her father’s motivation is in avenging her murder, not in being a hero by setting Bennett and those he’s in league with up to be caught with their pants down, the signals are mixed. By the time we are wrapped in the mystery, we become far less interested in Craven’s internal struggle and Gibson’s performance loses weight. When the script decides he’s going to turn the ass-kicking dial up to 11, our reaction is not immediately “get ’em, Mel,” but “hold ’em captive and get more information out of ’em so we can find out what’s going on … Mel!” The story comes to a compelling “Departed”-style climax, but it takes a mental adjustment because these two plots aren’t on the same page.

No knocks here against “Casino Royale” director Martin Campbell, who was obviously brought in to tackle the challenge of generating the emotional impact while expertly handling the action and suspense as he proved capable of by turning James Bond, cinema’s most infamously hardened hero, into an emotionally complex character. The action and suspense scenes are terrifically paced, but the script keeps Campbell on a leash as far as everything else. There’s only so much one can do to make a father’s redundant hallucinations of his little girl palatable.

Nevertheless, “Edge of Darkness” will grab your attention in spots and on occasion floor you with its thorough knowledge of police department infrastructure, protocol and information access (did I mention Monahan wrote “The Departed?). And Gibson, he does what he always used to, keep it real with a likable protagonist. It sure makes you wonder how the guy can be an a-hole in actuality. I guess that’s acting for you.

3/5 Stars

Edge of Darkness
Directed by Martin Campbell
Written by William Monahan, Andrew Bovell, Troy Kennedy-Martin (TV Series)
Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment