Tuesday, June 22, 2010

DVD Review: "Edge of Darkness"

Mel Gibson has been one of Hollywood's biggest leading men but taking an almost 10-year hiatus is a risky proposition (whether there is personal controversy or not), but Edge of Darkness brings Mel back to the big-screen in the kind of action oriented thriller that has always been his bread and butter. Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a Boston homicide detective who witnesses the murder of his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic). At first it is believed that Emma was the unfortunate victim of a botched murder attempt directed at her father. But something tugs at Thomas and when he discovers a gun stashed among Emma's belongings, he beings looking closer at the possibility that Emma was the intended victim. It isn't long before Craven realizes that something is seriously wrong with the company his daughter, an MIT graduate, worked for. Northmoor is a corporation that only really exists on the movie screen with its remote location, lavishly appointed offices and instant access to U.S. senators. Craven's search for information starts with Emma's boyfriend, who supplied her with the gun, and happens to be under surveillance for unknown reasons. Unable to immediately draw the needed information from the terrified man, Craven tracks down other colleagues of Emma's who are also being watched by the nefarious Northmoor. Tantalizing clues are dropped along the way in the form of a Geiger counter found in Emma's apartment that reacts to high levels of radiation in a lock of Emma's hair. As Craven directs ever more attention at Northmoor, he finds that the corporation has labyrinthine ties that have him up against the U.S. government as well as the corporation itself. But he's a man with nothing to lose, which becomes ever more apparent as he begins showing signs of radiation sickness, the same sickness his daughter was suffering from before she was murdered. Aided by excellent performances by Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone (a shadowy "consultant" for Darkmoor), and under the direction of Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") "Edge of Darkness" is about as good as it can be given the limitations of the plot. Based on a popular British television show that originally aired in the 1980's, "Edge of Darkness" is a throwback to a time when movies frequently reflected our overwhelming fear of nuclear war, though it has been updated to take into account the modern dangers of terrorism. But, truth be told, we've seen this movie before in several different incarnations; even starring Mel Gibson-- only it was called "Payback" the first time around. Even "Ransom" fits the man-on-a-mission template going on here. "Edge of Darkness" is an incredibly tense film. Some of the best scenes are the ones in which Craven is questioning Emma's friends and their terror literally leaps off the screen in performances that are a credit to the actors and the director. Gibson is still as charismatic as ever and I appreciated that his character wasn't some CIA operative with mad ninja skills. He's just a father with a relentless need to find the truth and see justice for his daughter. There just isn't anything I can fault when it comes to the acting or the direction of this film. But, at the same time, it's not a movie that treads new ground. It is the standard, boilerplate thriller that Gibson is so well known for. It's also not a movie for the squeamish as the confrontations can be rather graphic and shocking. All in all it's a good movie that tries valiantly to overcome a fairly pedestrian plot, but only proves that great performances and direction can't overcome all obstacles.

8 comments:

furiousBall said...

as much as I detest Mel as a man, he is talented and I have to say I've liked a lot of his films. this sounds so-so, I'll probably watch it on a night I have nothing else to do

S.M.D. said...

So, it's sort of like Taken, but the daughter dies instead?

Charles Gramlich said...

I've been wondering how good this is. Sounds like I should give it a rent.

SQT said...

FB-- If I decided not to watch anything based on the behavior of the actors involved-- I'd never watch anything. This is a good rental, just not something I'd go buy.

S.M.D-- Yeah, very much like "Taken." But Mel's character doesn't have the espionage skills and it isn't a rescue, just revenge.

Charles-- It's certainly worth watching.

BStearns said...

I found this movie average. I didn't get much of anything out of it, but as you said the acting was quite good. I much preferred Taken over this film though. I absolutely enjoyed Liam Neeson do all that ass-kicking to get his daughter back. I guess for me, I'm more of a fan of the rescue as it makes it more personal, whereas with Gibson's nothing to lose character, there are no ramifications if he screws up.

-Bryan
sff-hub.blogspot.com

SQT said...

BStearns-- I liked "Taken" better too. The only reason I said I liked that Gibson was a regular Joe is because it's the less common road in movies like this. But the speech Neeson's character gives to the bad guy about having a "special set of skills" was terrific. I think of "Taken" as more of a revenge/rescue fantasy than this one because he did have something to lose.

The tension in "Edge of Darkness" came more from the fear the other characters showed because they still had a chance to save their own lives. Once we knew Craven was sick, we knew how it was going to end.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I am glad to see Mel back to doing what he should be doing. Yes, I have trouble with his politics and some of his behaviors, but I believe in separating a person from their art. If he has done something worth watching, I'm there. I can say the same for Tom Cruise. The performance isn't the performer.

SQT said...

Stu-- I'm glad he's back too. His personal behavior has been horrible, but I read in one article that he mentioned that he was bi-polar. It makes sense. My brother is bi-polar and it can be a wild ride sometimes. I can't speak for Gibson's situation, but my brother has these swings into paranoia where he clearly isn't rational. I guess it's also pretty common for them to self-medicate with alcohol which only increases the irrational behavior. It's not an excuse, but it allows me to set aside the things Gibson says and just deal with the performance. I'm totally over-thinking the whole thing (as usual) but celebrities have such public lives that we sometimes need to be able to rationalize going to see their movies.