When the daughter (Bojana Novakovic) of veteran Boston detective Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is killed in front of him, police assume he was the target. But Craven begins to suspect its to do with the shady businessman (Danny Huston) she was working for.
After eight years of self-imposed above-the-title retirement, Mel Gibson returns. Craggier, but with the same hair-trigger energy... It’s always seemed, on screen and off, like he might just do anything — it’s his blessing and his curse. Here he’s as dangerous and empathetic as ever. It’s good to have him back.
Of course, in some senses he’s hardly been absent. There have been his third and fourth pictures as director — The Passion Of The Christ, Apocalypto — and a reluctant starring role in the media-warped reality show of his own life; rage, rants and regret. In all this it’s easy to forget just how good Gibson can be — not just as a star, where his charisma has often elevated pedestrian material, but as an actor. Watch his underrated Hamlet, or revisit Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon — a movie that lives, beyond the quips and squibs, because of his emotional centre. The same can be said for Edge Of Darkness, where he’s dealing with grief again, although wham-bam action and profane bon mots are largely absent in favour of infrequent, brutal violence and furrow-faced exposition. There’s a lot of talk in Edge Of Darkness, some smart, some that feels incessant. Then just when you’re struggling to pay attention, Gibson brings the pain — either with a pistol or his eyes, which carry the same wounded, vulnerable quality they always have, here fully exploited. Craven is damaged goods. A man you suspect was always emotionally stunted is now stunned, trying to process the loss of everything he cared for. He’s attacked by inner demons and haunted by grief — literally, it could be said, as he hears the voice of his late daughter and imagines her there, as a little girl, as he explores her killing. These scenes are, unsurprisingly, the most affecting of the movie. It’s a device lifted, but tweaked, from the ’80s BBC TV series, and while some will find it mawkish, you’ll need to have a stone-cold heart — or be a newspaper journalist — not to be moved.
The violence is certainly not soft-focussed, with the initial murder shocking even though it’s expected. Another road-side set-piece is impactful, if somewhat nonsensical, while the obvious use of stunt doubles mars some scenes. It’s hard to know what to make of director Martin Campbell, the man who has twice invigorated Bond (with GoldenEye and Casino Royale) and made the excellent The Mask Of Zorro, yet allows shoddy workmanship akin to the stage-bound ice travesty of his own Vertical Limit. This is obviously a passion project for him, having directed the 1985 series, and it has ambition and pretension to substance which is admirable. The original was scripted by the late Troy Kennedy Martin, fuelled by his frustration at a Thatcherite Britain in thrall to American interests. This is similarly suspicious of government and big business, with Huston — who has cornered the market in shifty screen suits — the face of corporate evil. What he’s up to and why isn’t entirely clear — neither is the role of Ray Winstone’s sly spy, Jedburgh — but Gibson’s conviction sells the story. Remember: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Edge Of Darkness may not have a great conspiracy theory, but it’s thankfully no Conspiracy Theory.
An uneven, somewhat meandering thriller is given emotional pull by Mel Gibsons excellent comeback performance. The lethal weapon hasnt lost it.