Review by Throwback
It’s hard to believe that Mel Gibson didn’t have a starring role in any movie from 2002 to 2010. It’s true. From Signs to Edge of Darkness, there was nothing. Public meltdowns don’t fully explain this. Roman Polanski did much worse than Mel Gibson, yet somehow, people clamor for his absolution and work product. Back to the main topic, though. I pulled Edge of Darkness quite simply because I like Mel Gibson movies and wanted to know if he was still capable of delivering a good performance after such a long hiatus.
This role has cast him as Detective Thomas Craven of Boston. His daughter has come home after working a hush-hush job for a major government contractor. Naturally, he’s happy to see her. Also naturally, he gets really ticked off when a masked assailant guns her down outside of their home. Thus begins Gibson’s hunt for his daughter’s killers, leaving an impressive trail of chaos behind him. Of course, things are a lot more complicated than just some random act of violence and the ensuing twists are interesting enough to keep a viewer entertained.
My question about Gibson’s abilities was answered early on. He’s a lot older than what people are used to seeing. The movie seems to go out of its way to show this, which is a good thing. A father’s revenge is a lot when the father is actually an older guy. Nor is he an unstoppable killing machine like, say, Liam Neeson in Taken (which I liked anyway). Craven takes as many lumps as he gives. Gibson does all this without slipping into Lethal Weapon or Ransom craziness. There is torment and anguish, but it’s tinged with sadness rather than rage. Let me add that his Boston accent wasn’t too bad. He even made it understandable, which is a huge problem with Boston-based films. The actors are so obsessed with sounding authentically Boston that their speech is incomprehensible. I’m not sure why they bother, given that no Boston accent will ever be genuine enough for Bostonians.
The supporting cast doesn’t make for much. Gibson doesn’t so much steal the show as have it handed to him. The fact that he floated the whole picture as well as he did was impressive. Ray Winstone is really the only other “name” actor. Oddly enough, his speech IS incomprehensible most of the time.
The major flaw here is the pacing. Awkward is too nice a word. This is all very weird. Martin Campbell, more widely known for Goldeneye and Casino Royale, is better than this. Pushing two hours, the movie was more than long enough for anything he wanted to do. He winds up putting us in a tug-of-war between Gibson’s real search for why his daughter was killed, misplaced dragging scenes with Winstone’s character (who I’m deliberately trying to leave vague), and loose-ended exchanges that don’t seem to have much purpose than to make for a longer movie. This could have been tightened up to 90 minutes and been a much, much better film. I’ll give him credit for the concluding bit. It was not something that you would expect in your typical revenge flick. It’s too bad that the preceding celluloid was apparently made with the idea of “Just tape the scene. Gibson will make it work.” The problem is that you wind up with some great takes that are tangled up and stretched into a bit of a mess.
It’s a Mel Gibson movie, so you know there is a lot of foul language. Blasphemy is in abundance. There’s no sexual content to speak of. The nature of the story is violence, so go in knowing that lots of people will be shot, run over with cars, poisoned, etc. It wouldn’t be much of a revenge movie without all this.
Gibson gives a great performance, but the film making is just sloppy. You can’t get passed this. If Edge of Darkness is on TV or in a Redbox, you can probably justify watching it if you’re a Gibson fan. Otherwise, there’s better stuff out there. 1.5 tiaras.