Monday, February 1, 2010

Gibson returns in violent, vengeful ‘Edge of Darkness’

By Steve Crum

Much has been said and written about Mel Gibson’s return to film stardom after eight years. Since 2002’s Signs, Gibson forsook acting for writing and directing the controversial and critically praised Apocalypto (2006) and The Passion of the Christ (2004). Apart from his professional successes, there were his highly publicized antisemitic slur, drinking binges, and divorce. They are mentioned here only because of their potential box office drag.

Now, looking his age but still showing road warrior grit, Gibson headlines Edge of Darkness, playing a Boston cop revenging his murdered daughter. Although written and directed by others, Edge has its share of Gibson movie earmarks: violence, heroism to the point of martyrdom, and spirituality. The Thomas Craven character Gibson portrays flashes his crucifix necklace several times, and one of his lines (from the screenplay by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell) curiously channels The Passion of the Christ: “You had better decide whether you’re hangin’ on the cross...or bangin’ in the nails.”

Edge of Darkness is a solid action movie with a strong, believable performance by Gibson. Just as effective is Ray Winstone’s turn as philosophical hit man Jedburgh.

Labeling Edge as violent is an understatement. There are more bullets to the head and torso in this flick than an entire season of CSI shows. Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) has supplemented the homicides with a plot line of government corruption and conspiracy--and the aforementioned revenge.

Based on the 1980’s British mini-series of the same name, Edge of Darkness is aptly named. After his 24 year-old daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is shot-gunned to death as they both walk out the front door, the veteran Detective Craven fixates on finding the murderer. In the process, Craven dodges and lobs bullets while encountering a cover-up. Among the guns, fisticuffs and kicks, Gibson plays Craven as both vulnerable and lethal. Mel Gibson + lethal. That is an original concept.

As the heartbroken and hateful Craven seeks his kid’s killer, he links with government operative Jedburgh, who is essentially a crisis clean-up guy. If eliminating someone is necessary, so be it. Jedburgh becomes conflicted when he sympathizes with Craven, and therein lies a plot element.

With a relentlessly driven take by Mel Gibson, including his credible Boston accent, Edge of Darkness car crashes and body slams to a surprisingly spiritual conclusion. The finale is also corny and touching enough to elicit tears.
On an A to F grade scale: C+
Check the body count in the Edge of Darkness trailer:

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