Mel Gibson is a man made for vengeance. If you wrong him, he will mess you up. We haven’t seen him make good on this since The Patriot (1999) when he won the American revolution because some British guy killed his family. Since that time, the troubled actor has been distracted by Jesus, alcohol, and Jews. Edge of Darkness promises a return to classic Gibson, which is something to celebrate. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend it.
I really want to like Edge of Darkness. The trailer reminds me of Taken and the film is directed by Martin Cambell, who is best known for saving the James Bond franchise twice (Casino Royale, GoldenEye). And like State of Play, one of my favorite films of 2009, Edge of Darkness is based on a critically acclaimed BBC miniseries, which was also directed by Cambell. The signs for a great mystery action thriller are in place. Regrettably, Cambell and the writing team failed to modernize and translate the material to the big screen.
The plot follows Thomas Craven (Gibson), a cop and single father, estranged from his twenty-something daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic). She shows up at his door, very sick. As they’re the house for the emergency room, she is suddenly and horridly blown back about five feet by a shotgun, point blank (Hollywood physics). Craven is spared, and Emma dies of shock in his arms. The sequence happens crazy fast brutal and we just know it will drive Craven over the ‘edge.’ He’s gonna go Rambo, right? Well, no, not really.
He calmly investigates Emma’s death. Soon, he begins to hear her voice and daydream about her as a little girl. He’s heartbroken. I sympathize with Craven, but Cambell never solidifies the connection between him and his daughter. We see them next to each other, but never together.
After its opening moments, the film loses its way. Cambell and the two writers (William Monahan and Andrew Bovell) can’t decide what type of film they want to make. Do they want Gibson on a ruthless hunt for action, explosions, and vengeance? Perhaps a complicated political murder-mystery is a better way to go? Or maybe a drama centered around the psychological toll losing a daughter would take on a father?
Cambell and company decide to try all three. As a result, Edge of Darkness is schizophrenic. It’s a chilling I’m-seeing-dead-people personal drama one minute, a convoluted 80s Nuclear murder-mystery the next, and occasionally shoots from 0 to 100 and shocks us with an amazing, short action sequence. One such sequence was so freakishly intense that I actually came down with a headache for a moment. (Identity had a similar sequence.) If I were older with heart problems who knows what could have happened. When Cambell decides it’s time for action, get ready.
Unfortunately, the majority of screen time is spent on the hokey murder-mystery. I say hokey because it’s the kind of story a two-part MacGyver episode would run in the 80s, except Macgyver would be more fun because he finds creative solutions to every problem. He also has a killer mullet. What a guy.
It turns out Emma was targeted by the top secret, government funded research facility where she worked. This is obvious about 30 minutes in when Craven meets with the head of the facility, Jack Bennet, played by Danny Huston. Huston never got the memo that he isn’t still Col. William Stryker from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Bennet is an arrogant ass to Craven, asking the grieving man “how does it feel?” in a cold tone. He doesn’t deny that the facility is developing weapons and doesn’t care to discuss Emma’s death. He’s probably distracted, still trying to figure out how best to infuse adamantium into Hugh Jackman’s bones.
Most everyone Craven talks to share the same qualities: they overact, are easy to read, and withhold information for no reason. It’s like they get off on being withholding (like Lucille). It’s the kind of thing that only happens in the movies. Essentially, we’re dragged to see a ton of useless characters talking about nonsense things using overly complex words until we just don’t care anymore. We’re sitting through these immense filler scenes hoping that Gibson will hit the “edge of darkness” and start kicking ass. You know, get some street justice. He rarely does. Mostly, he’s just sad.
Edge of Darkness is like a game of Clue where everyone knows who did it but has to play through the entire game anyway. The mystery is hokey and Craven’s hallucinations are overdone. I could have put up with these faults, but there was too little action to pad them.
Score: 2 out of 5