Edge of Darkness marks the acting comeback of the now, notorious Mel Gibson, after an 8-year break, since his last lead role in a major production, that of M.Night.Shyamalan’s Signs. Though Gibson decided to take time away from the big screen, in terms of lead roles in films, its important to remember and lets face it, hard to forget, the two films he gave audiences during his 8yr acting hiatus. 2004’s The Passion of the Christ caused an incredible stir not only within the film community but also understandably within the Catholic Church itself, for its graphic depiction of the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Along with 2006’s Apocalypto, an incredibly ambitious project, portraying a warriors struggle to save the woman he loves whilst the Mayan kingdom faces its inevitable decline.
Thus to attempt to portray such subject matter as a relatively new director (despite his obvious work with Braveheart), gives us an idea into the character of Gibson, though ambitious, passionate, perhaps sometimes obsessively so and with a great love for detail, there is no doubt Mel Gibson is a talented man. Along with his directorial ability, he is undoubtedly an accomplished actor with his filmography-boasting Hamlet, Oscar winning Braveheart and of course the ever-popular Lethal Weapon Franchise. Gibson is a versatile actor, who is not short of ability and able to deliver solid performances when called upon.
Edge of Darkness marks the return of Gibson as an actor, not a director, or as ‘that celebrity’ whose appeared in the news again, for most recently negative reasons. Despite Gibson’s seemingly deplorable comments, he is no doubt a natural on screen presence and Martin Campbell’s Edge of Darkness, adapted from Cambell’s own television series of the same name, shows off Gibson’s physical and dramatic skills well. However, apart from a number of scenes with Ray Winstone who performs a rehash of his turn in Scorcese’s The Departed as the seemingly mysterious free agent, though no doubt brilliantly, Edge of Darkness is a rather off the shelf political thriller and feels too compressed at times. We are introduced to an abundance of characters who all seem to deserve a more thorough development than the market friendly 117 minute running time is willing to allow. However, this is not surprising considering that the film is indeed adapted from Campbell’s own 6 part television series where such character and background development would no doubt have been established.
Gibsons plays Thomas Craven, an experienced homicide detective for the Boston Police Department as well as a single father who comes to the realization that he did not know his daughter as well as he supposed. After he experiences the shooting of his daughter, who was victim of a bullet supposedly meant for him he embarks upon a search to find his daughter’s killer, with the added tension that he is bent upon doing anything necessary to find the truth. Gibson plays a familiar role of the man with nothing to lose. This film friendly role, allows him to utter a no doubt male crowd-pleasing response to the warning that he’s after someone whose both armed and dangerous with a simple “What do you think I am?”
The film also marks an attempt to revive the tired 1970’s anti-governmental, big business, political thriller/conspiracies genre, one that has boasted such successes as 1976’s All the President’s Men, a film that was driven by Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. Despite a relatively interesting plot, the film’s tone is cast in a sense of indecision and doesn’t know whether it wants to be an in depth character study of a man driven by grief to search for answers or that of a man out for revenge, which the second half of the film succumbs to.
Despite an excellent start, where the story and tension is set up effectively and quickly, Edge of Darkness gives in to the seemingly modern day demand for chase sequences and unnecessary and in some areas excessive violence. The characterization and plot development the series no doubt had, has been sacrificed here for below par studio fare and the promising start is subsequently followed by an adequate and predictable revenge thriller.
Although the film falls into obvious cliché’s and the basic predictability of the plot in the final reel of the film, Gibson certainly delivers a strong performance, in a demanding though well suited role. Craven is in almost every scene and Gibson does well to convey the image of an ordinary man whose only purpose is to find out the truth and do whatever he needs to achieve this. Luxuries aren’t permitted him, and though he has spent his life adhering to the rules of the Boston police department and his own moral code of conduct, this is all changed following his daughter’s death leading to the inevitable revenge thriller that follows.
The film is however, a too ‘paint by numbers’ thriller to be truly successful/suspenseful and although Gibson’s strong convincing performance and the cameo turn of the talented Ray Winstone were enough to keep me interested and entertained throughout the film it did become tiresome. To end on a positive note however, I for one am glad to see a no doubt talented on screen presence return to what he made his name for, for however long he may choose it to be for this time round.