Review: Edge of Darkness (2010)

Mel Gibson plays detective Thomas Craven in Martin Campbell's Edge of Darkness, ending Gibson's eight year hiatus from taking a lead role

Everyone knows Mel Gibson has had problems. What they didn’t expect was that he would take an eight year hiatus from a lead role, from Signs (2002) until this, Edge of Darkness – a film derived from the British TV show in the 80’s of the same name. Here the director of said show, Martin Campbell (Casino Royale (2006)), also comes along as part of the package.

As commonplace, the story is transported from the UK to the US – Boston to be specific. Mel Gibson plays detective Thomas Craven, a single dad who has not seen his young daughter for a while. One night she comes to visit and when he picks her up, all is not well. Next thing, she is brutally killed on his doorstep by masked men.

As he’s a cop, naturally the authorities think the killer’s got the wrong target. Unfortunately for them, Craven slowly unravels and pieces together information that leads him to a conspiracy and a cover-up involving radical environmentalists, a big corporate company involved with nuclear weapons, and a Boston senator – all of which link to the death of his daughter.

Along the way he interacts with the shady Jedburgh (Ray Winstone, providing the Brit support) who may or may not be someone he can trust, the not-so-subtle bad guy Bennett (Danny Huston) and his sentimental family time with his dead daughter in dream-like fashion.

With the adaptation being done by the original director, the film was always going to be in good hands. Sure enough it flows nicely and takes you into the story at a watchable pace. However, you do feel that it is lacking something. Maybe it is because, for a conspiracy-style thriller, it plays its cards early.

It is revealed almost immediately who the main players in the conspiracy are, leaving the audience to guess little. Although this is intentional, it certainly takes away the intrigue element which people are used to enjoying in this genre. Additionally, whereas the TV show focused mainly on the nuclear aspect, the film brushes this over in favour of Craven getting revenge, with the interesting political side of things taking a back seat to the action.

Mel also doesn’t help. It may be that his acting  is rusty, but he struggles with the Bostonian accent, even to the point where he’s mumbling. It really feels like he’s going through the motions. The same can be said of the supporting cast; Danny Huston is typecast as the evil corporate executive and Ray Winstone does his usual British schtick.

That’s not to say all these aspects combined were not enjoyable. The characters and plot are interwoven at an easy to follow pace, unlike say Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. You just expect everything to be as it should – shocking opening apart – the plot, the actors, the resolution… it all plays out how you think it would, even with the The Departed-style ending thrown in.

Overall, Edge of Darkness is an entertaining crowd-pleaser that is a perfect vehicle for Mel to break slowly back into being in front of a camera. His star power may have dwindled but this is a couple of his decent films rolled into one: Conspiracy Theory meets Ransom. After all his troubles, this was a safe bet for Hollywood’s prodigal son.

Best scene: Craven’s daughter’s unexpected demise – not that it happened, but how it happened.

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