Tuesday, June 22, 2010
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.