Edge of Darkness

Dir: Martin Campbell

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Warner Bros.

117 Minutes

In his first starring role since Signs (2002) and his first appearance on the big screen since making waves with his 2006 arrest, Mel Gibson immediately steps back into the type of role that has defined his 30 year career. Playing a Boston cop named Craven whose estranged daughter is blasted by a shotgun-wielding assailant on his doorstep, Gibson once again plays the wronged avenger who is out for blood and doesn’t give a fuck who he maims until he gets payback.

Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) and adapted from the Campbell-directed 1986 British mini-series of the same name, Edge of Darkness has all the right ingredients to get us into Mel’s corner: a cold-hearted murder, a government cover-up, smarmy stock villains, yet the film is lifeless, slow and worst of all, boring. It doesn’t take long for Campbell to open up the old Hollywood playbook on grieving parents featuring long shots of Gibson looking off in despair while he imagines the ghost of his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) and recalls more innocent times like taking her to the beach as a child.

But, Craven soon realizes that he wasn’t the assassin’s intended target, but rather his daughter who worked for a super secret corporation that may or may not be manufacturing nuclear weapons. As the fragments left behind, such as a gun and a Geiger counter, indicate Craven Jr. may have been more involved than her mere intern status, Papa Craven begins his own little investigation that leads him to his daughter’s boyfriend (Shawn Roberts), the despicable Jack Bennett (Danny Huston), Emma’s former boss who asks Craven what it feels like to lose a child and governmental hitman Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) whose character seems like a last minute addition to quicken this ceramic-paced potboiler.

For those looking for a film where Mel Gibson kicks ass and takes names, you may be sorely disappointed. While his Craven does kill and beat plenty of people, the dour mood that hangs over the film brings a solemn tone to the proceedings. Whether he is punching the leader of extremist environmental group or pouring radioactive milk down the throat of another bad guy, Gibson’s Craven is unlike his William Wallace or Martin Riggs in that there is no bravado or joy in the filmmaking here, just glacial pacing punctuated by random bursts of violence.

Though Gibson gets right back on the horse that threw him off, Edge of Darkness is not the triumphant return to the screen for the tarnished star. Gibson may look older and balder, but the undeniable danger that burns in his eyes is still there. If the film, with its shoehorned plot twists and inevitable gloomy death march to retribution, was half as dangerous as its star, we could have seen the auspicious launch of Mel Gibson v2.0. Instead, Edge of Darkness is a thriller with no teeth, one that elicits more glances at the watch than the palpable joy of having one of our biggest stars back where he belongs.

by David Harris

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