Thursday, February 25, 2010



EDGE OF DARKNESS was marketed as a Mel Gibson beat-‘em-up. In this regard, it is mildly successful. When EDGE OF DARKNESS is running full-tilt in its second act, it really feels like PAYBACK 2.0. Unfortunately, with its cliché, long-winded government conspiracy plot, the frenetic pacing isn’t maintained. Mel Gibson plays a hybrid of his Porter character from PAYBACK and his Tom Mullen from RANSOM. If you cook EDGE OF DARKNESS up and scoop off the impurities, the film is obviously RANSON remixed as an absentee father in the middle of some treacherous plot. He just wants to know who took his daughter so that he can kill them.

Mel Gibson’s return to cinema is a welcome one. He has racked up a respectable syllabus in his checkered career. Gibson does badass and has been doing it since the late ‘70s. It is too bad that he chose EDGE OF DARKNESS to be the film that is supposed to wash his drunken, anti-Semitic rant out of our brains. EDGE OF DARKNESS isn’t particularly bad, but it isn’t particularly good either. Gibson’s Tom Craven is a “safe” starring role that just about any modern leading tough guy could have done. It does feel like it was tailor-made for Gibson, but Bruce Willis could have pulled it off too.

EDGE OF DARKNESS opens with a straight-out-of-film school juxtaposition. Dead bodies are shown floating in the Connecticut River immediately followed by boiler plate, dated home-film footage of a little girl on a beach interacting with her father who is holding the camera. The next scene is the here and now with Craven meeting his 20-something daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) at a crowded train station. Dead bodies floating in the water followed immediately by this scene of a father and daughter; we know what to expect.

Although Craven fantasizes that he has a close connection with his daughter, he doesn’t know where she works, who her boyfriend is, or how she passes her time. It is a no-brainer that Craven is scripted as a police detective. So when the obviously physically ill Emma takes a Youtube worthy shotgun blast to the chest, Craven is ready to spring into all sorts of dirty-detective action.

Craven hustles and soon learns that Emma was blowing the whistle on Northmoor, the company she worked for. He also learns that this company is up to some corporate/international nuclear weapons tomfoolery. Emma’s blood vomiting underscores a subplot featuring radiation poisoning and dementia.

EDGE OF DARKNESS is a standard action film. Just about everyone is corrupt, and certain smiling, helpful faces at the beginning of the film are proven to be double-dealing backstabbers at the end. Those that aren’t criminal are smoked too soon by assassins that are too handsome and drive what look to be government-issue black-ops vehicles.

Craven’s character is straight from an action movie cookie-cutter. He isn’t the only one. As a matter of fact, every character in EDGE OF DARKNESS is a bland retread except for Ray Winstone’s Jedburgh. Jedburgh just happens to stick out because he is a British-accented man in an American film full of bad Bostonian accents. By the time Jedburgh, a clandestine securities officer, meets with Craven, all of the clichés are in place, and nonstop tension, action, and macho one-liners ensue.

Craven’s exchanges with Jedburgh show a mutual respect and a code of honor that are supposed to cultivate the yin and yang attraction/repulsion of DeNiro and Pacino in HEAT. It is really too bad that EDGE OF DARKNESS doesn’t zero completely in on this aspect of the plot.

Mel Gibson’s acting strength as a man grieving the loss of his daughter isn’t weak at all. His grizzled face and hoarse voice speak to an inner spiritual fatigue and devastation. Gibson’s acting is also solid as he warms up his human vengeance machine and starts seriously knocking fools out. He even manages to pull off the “stumbling in pain while firing” maneuver that he performs in PAYBACK. This is a role that Gibson has played before, and there is no new wrinkle in his delivery. This is a film that could have been tacked on as a Massachusetts afterward to the LETHAL WEAPON series.

EDGE OF DARKNESS is a Mel Gibson movie through and through, and the Tom Craven role fits him perfectly. The downside is that if you have clocked substantial Mel Gibson time or even substantial action movie time, you already know how it is going to play out. EDGE OF DARKNESS has a couple of crazy action sequences, but the bulk of the film was better in its original form elsewhere.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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