Gibson returns as a toxic avenger in “Edge of Darkness”
Mel Gibson’s new thriller “Edge of Darkness” finds him returning to the actor’s role for the first time since 2002’s “Signs”-a seven-plus year period that saw him direct two of finest films of the past decade: “The Passion of the Christ” and “Apocalypto.” His latest is certainly not his best work, but Gibson, older and more wrinkled of face and thinner of hair, is sturdy while playing a Boston detective out to avenge the brutal homicide of his daughter. Those who enjoyed last year’s excellent “Taken” will likely be drawn to “Edge of Darkness,” though it earns its “R” rating as a much more brutal thriller that manages to balance its occasional viciousness with heartbreaking flashbacks.
Gibson’s films often have familial undertones, and “Darkness” is no exception. When his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is gunned down on their doorstep, Thomas Craven (Gibson) sets out to find who he thinks is a murderer who intended to kill him. What transpires is a slow burning drama of conspiracy theories, radical activist groups, poisoned milk, a suspicious anti-nuclear plant called Northmoor and a cast of malefactors who have something to hide.
Director Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”) attempts to condense his own 1985 BBC miniseries, and what the film lacks in coherence (some of the dialogue is awfully murky) it makes up for in bursts of action (including one jump-out-of-your-seat shocker) and smart exchanges coupled with twisty developments.
The presence of Ray Winstone (“Indiana Jones and the Legend of the Crystal Skull,” “Fool’s Gold”) as a shadowy character with a Cockney accent gives the film a lift, and he and Gibson’s scenes are beyond engaging. This is the kind of film that Martin Scorcese could have directed and from which he would promptly have squashed any humanity. (Indeed one of the writers, William Monahan, helped pen “The Departed.”)
But “Edge of Darkness,” even with its flaws, is a top-notch nail biter that tries to be less about the kills and more about the thrills. This is closer in vision and execution to Gibson’s “Ransom” than “Payback.”
It’s good to have manic Mel back.
(Rated R for strong bloody violence and language including over 40 f-words.)