Edge of Darkness
2010, R, 117 min. Directed by Martin Campbell. Starring Mel Gibson, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts, Danny Huston, Ray Winstone.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 29, 2010
Adapted from the six-episode BBC television drama of the same name, this is also Gibson's first major film since his scandalous roadside rantings and arrest in July 2006. Rumors that the actor's career was henceforth DOA seemed a bit overenthusiastic at the time, but with the release of this British-funded maelstrom of Mel Gibson-ness, it appears that this older, weaker Mad Mel's future hasn't flatlined just yet. But what a bizarre choice of film for a comeback this is. Gibson is Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective who reunites with his college-age daughter, Emma (Novakovic), hours before she's gunned down on the Craven family front porch by an unknown assailant. Essentially, Edge of Darkness is a man vs. system film, with Gibson going up against a U.S. senator (Damian Young) and a mysterious (and heavily fortified) Massachusetts-based nuclear weapons research and development corporation. That shadowy company, Broadmoor, is headed by Jack Bennett (Huston), a patently insane CEO with some serious missile envy issues but no scruples to speak of. Add to this mix various shadow agents of the U.S. government who are working to shape Craven's tragedy so that some seriously evil deeds will not reflect back upon their bosses (i.e., the president), and you've almost got the right ingredients for a fine, edgy BBC miniseries. There's even a tip of the hat to the UK's infamous Animal Liberation Front in there somewhere, and what could be more gripping than that? As directed by Campbell, Edge of Darkness has the look and feel of a Brit film shot in America – it's all dark, boxy rooms with powerful white men in impeccable black suits discussing how to tidy up the minor mishaps of their game over brandy and cigars. But Campbell, who helmed the terrific James Bond reboot Casino Royale, can milk suspense and a smattering of action out of practically anything (yes, even a bottle of milk is used in an inappropriate manner), and he forces Gibson into the frame as much as possible. But the actor looks old and run-down here, and it's not just the makeup department adding layers of faux grief to his character. Gibson is no longer the man who played Aussie Police Officer Max Rockatansky (who also lost his wife and infant daughter and went mad) or Lethal Weapon's crazyman Riggs. He moves slowly, haltingly, and his face has become a road map of chiseled and pitted age lines overcast by a small sprinkling of gray hair. He seems chastened – Catholic imagery is all over this film – and humbled by the strange Hollywood thrill ride he's been on for the past five years. And knowing that makes his character more sympathetic and more human. Still, Edge of Darkness is not a great movie. It's a middling comeback, tentative, wary of much, and a fascinating portrait of a Hollywood icon doing his best to tiptoe back into the audience's good graces. And Gibson, a blue-eyed charmer to the bitter end, almost manages it.