Edge of Darkness
Hard to believe that it's been eight years since Mad Mel last graced us with a big screen performance. During that time Mel's chief accomplishments have been amassing a fortune comparable to the GDP of a small country thanks to points on The Passion, the resurrection of two dead languages, and single-handedly steering the phrase "Sugartits" into the cultural lexicon. While his reputation might be forever tarnished by that fateful drunken tirade directed at a certain righteous people, by way of Malibu's finest, on-screen you always know where you are with ol' Mel and certain traits simply come as standard; simmering intensity...the nature of revenge as a theme...the ability to flit from measured to manic in an instant...and of course violence, lots of violence.
As the grieving policeman father turned vengeful vigilante psycho, Mel, quite appalling 'Baasten' accent aside, is by far the best thing Martin Campbell's bog-standard conspiracy caper has going for it, condensing the gritty eighties mini-series, considered something of a watermark at the time, down from six hours to just under two. Inevitably the resulting cramped nature of the story means that the slow-burning sense of murky dread is evaporated and the gradual discovery crudely translated as a cascading avalanche of increasingly unlikely scenarios. Even Mel's great ability to infuse blatant head cases with an innate liability can do nothing to overcome the bland nature of the mystery and the revolving medley of broadly drawn stooges, hackneyed Langley types, and clichéd corporate suits engaged in frankly un-involving skullduggery with muddled motivation.
Despite a vague backstory that suggests he hasn't seen his darling, nuclear R&D intern daughter in eons, Mel's copper is a doting dad. Watching him pause the old vacation videos to brave a torrential downpour to pick her up from the bus station, followed by the cute revelation that he has sprung for asparagus for dinner, we quickly realize that this girl is dead. She's so dead they're going to have to bury her twice. A porch light ambush and a nasty shotgun blast to the stomach and we're right where we need to be. One mainstay in Gibson's illustrious career that is constant as the northern star is torture, though despite the hard R this is of the emotional variety. Watching Mel, brood and ponder, and walk on the beach to a soft, swaying score, right around the point his daughter starts to speak to him from the beyond, you wonder if you're witnessing the invention of a whole new sub genre - "grief porn."
Then Ray Winstone shows up as a non-descript spook acting as an Avatar for justice. Hamstrung as he is by a penchant for fortune-cookie philosophy, Greek mythology, and pointless metaphysical musings he does at the very least kick things into a higher gear by pointing Mel in the direction of the bad guys. Few people do the burnt-out, bugging-out, revenge-bent nutter any better than Mel, and ever-present is his great gift to know exactly when, and how much, to overplay certain scenes to turn a potential groan into a sardonic giggle. The rest of the cast, however, do not fare so well. Danny Huston, plucking a stock shady CEO type from the shelf and dusting it off is a particularly weak foil. The clumsy nature of the script doesn't help much either, with the Boston PD's declaration of "We're here for you - office involved," complete with lingering cutaways to the officer clearly involved, not adding what you would exactly call layers.
The end result is functional, formulaic romp elevated by a gifted actor who, despite a sagging chin and a touch of gray, quite clearly still has it. But the good bits, and there are a few, are punctuated by an inordinate amount of watch fiddling on the part of the viewer whenever Mel isn't beating, shooting, or threatening somebody. Which isn't too often, mind, but often enough to drag a potentially exhilarating thriller down to the level of bog-standard genre entertainment. the very definition of a three-star movie.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovik, Shawn Roberts
Director: Martin Campbell
Runtime: 117 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Danielle Panabaker's Top Pop Picks
"I'm really into the Avett Brothers as of late."
"My girlfriends are I - we are very nerdy. We started a book club and the first book we read was Gone Girl."
"I thought it was a great film and I thought Jennifer Lawrence was incredible, you know those angry tears, I've certainly experienced that."
Most Popular Videos
- Jane Lynch And Craig Robinson Video Interview On 'Escape From Planet Earth'
- George Lopez Video Interview On 'Escape From Planet Earth'
- Dylan O'Brien Video Interview On 'The Internship,' Google, Vince Vaughn
- Dave Franco & Isla Fisher Video Interview On 'Now You See Me,' Magic
- Clive Owen Video Interview On 'Shadow Dancer,' Playing An MI-5 Agent