Edge Of Darkness: Comeback? I hate that word!

9 February 2010

Katerina Webb-Bourne is unimpressed by Mel Gibson’s latest offering.

Edge of Darkness – 1hr 48 mins, 15


Mel Gibson’s return to the big screen has all the makings of a good thriller: one cop hell-bent on revenge, political intrigue, radiation poisoning used as a weapon…so why is the film neither as edgy nor as dark as it could be?

After a gruesome and intriguing opening in which three corpses float to the top of a lake, we cut to Boston cop Thomas Craven (Gibson) – his daughter is shot dead on the porch. When it emerges that Emma Craven worked for Northmoor, a shady arms company, these opening events become connected. Gradually a complex web of deception is created and the conspiracy theories stack up.

Director Martin Campbell was tasked with updating the 1980s BBC series of the same name; his treatment is a more action-driven affair but severely disjointed. Despite a lengthy running time the movie cracks along at a fairly fast pace. However, the quick cuts between scenes are confusing and the punchy action gels awkwardly with frequent information dumps. Consequently when the violence breaks out it’s all rather random.

The direction and story-telling are particularly lazy. Some aspects make little sense; we’re supposed to believe that Gibson’s supercop character would forget his daughter’s mysterious illness prior to her death. And, far too often, the film indulges in terribly cheesy conspiracy cliches. Secret meetings in dark car parks do not belong in movies wishing to be taken seriously.

Additionally, the script is quite laughable at times. Thomas Craven bumps into several people who literally state that they are afraid. As for the old cop himself, he gradually becomes incensed by the extent of the corruption that unravels. He is even driven to cold, hard vengeance because, after all, he’s “just a guy with nothing to lose”.

As the movie reaches its apex, the main conspirators are revealed to us, and it’s less than shocking. Gibson is taken to the underground layer, tied to a gurney and dosed with a fatal amount of radiation. Why not just kill him? From this point the movie descends into a silliness from which it cannot recover.

One element that keeps the film the right side of entertaining is the slippery gun-for-hire, Jedburg (Ray Winstone). The nature of Winstone’s character is never truly revealed and his actions are entirely unpredictable. Winstone also gets the best lines, such as challenging a doctor examining his eyes to find a soul in there. 

The other major players are pretty much cardboard cut-outs, existing only to feed Craven information, and they fail to add any depth to the film. From the first shifty glances it’s blindingly obvious that Craven will be betrayed by a cop friend.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Northmoor, Jack Bennett (Danny Huston), is painted in stark tones as the crazy and evil corporation director. The only thing lacking is a moustache to twirl.

As for Gibson’s comeback, it ticked all the obvious boxes. He is certainly old enough to be a slightly creaky cop and father; leather-faced and gruff voiced.  He begins quite shocked by the tragic turn of events but he makes a fast transformation into “officer involved”. Boy does he get involved. He knocks down doors and beats the crap out of people. Gibson is back, or so it seems…

But, as the movie progresses, he appears more distracted then distraught. The imaginary conversations with his daughter that punctuate the action (the singular, most interesting and original idea) begin as a poignant touch but end on a trite note when he reunites with her and it fades to white.

Herein lies the film’s problem: it is not as bleak as the establishing shots suggest. Thus, it throws away all its potential. The mind bending twists are absent and so we as the audience are never truly challenged or, indeed, sent over the precipice.

Edge of Darkness is now showing at Vue Cinemas.