Edge Of Darkness

Director    Martin Campbell
Starring    Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts, David Aaron Baker
Release    29 JAN (US) 29 JAN (UK)    Certificate 15
2 stars


2nd February 2010

It's been seven years since Mel Gibson last appeared in a movie, and while he's kept himself busy drink-driving and bringing the phrase "sugar tits" to prominence, the Jew-hating Aussie with a lack of respect for historical fact is finally back and it's... a thoroughly underwhelming experience.

Director Martin Campbell adapts his 1985 BBC serial Edge Of Darkness for the big screen, and gets off to an incredibly effective start. The opening shot of a still lake is first of all disturbed by bubbles, before bodies rise to the surface. We cut to Boston police officer Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) picking up his daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), from a train station. Once home he realises she's clearly restless, but before she can reveal the truth she's gunned down.

Throughout this opening the rain hammers down relentlessly creating an incredibly depressing atmosphere. And when Craven's shouting at police officers, his daughter's blood still on his face, you feel that this is going to be really intense - but it doesn't last. The majority of the rest of the movie takes place under blue skies, spoiling the mood set in that opening, while Craven's anger is always controlled.

Unfortunately it quickly falls into a clichéd pattern as Craven sets about unravelling the conspiracy. It's not nearly as complicated as the script tries to tell you it is - too many characters tell Craven that there are people out there making it as difficult as possible, but in truth, Craven finds out pretty much all he needs to by speaking to just two people - they just take a frustratingly long time to spill the beans.

[gallery]Unsurprisingly the bad guys try to bump off every lead Craven has - though never until after he has got the required information from them. You're left to question why they never just bump him off instead and be done with it all. Perhaps it's something to do with Jedburgh (Ray Winstone). He enters in a scene that's almost embarrassingly stale - he meets with a shadowy figure in a gloomy basement car park. Original, huh?

But what more do you expect given that Winstone's character is also a huge cliché; an operative brought in to sort out all of the mess. He doesn't seem to have a huge impact on events, meeting up with Craven a couple of times to spout some philosophical clap-trap. There's a minor twist in regard to his motivation and actions as the movie plays out, but you never care enough for the character for it to matter.

Worse still, Gibson's Craven is an uninspiring hero. He's characterised by dull things, such as a love of ginger beer, and when trying to think of who could be out to get him, he states that he's never lived life enough to have any enemies. While he occasionally threatens to boil over with either rage or grief at his daughter's murder, he too often falls back to a one-dimensional boring Boston cop. There are attempts to add to the emotional impact of his daughter's death as his memories of her come to life - sometimes this works, adding a bit of sentimentality to the role, but by the end it all gets too much, resulting in much eye-rolling and sighing.

It's not all bad. Martin Campbell has proved with Bond that he can direct action, and he does it well enough here. One early fight scene has Craven throwing punches and furniture around to great effect. However, scenes like this are too few and far between, until we reach the ridiculous conclusion. Perhaps too much has been lost in translation from a six part mini-series to a feature film, or maybe too much has changed in the 25 years since the original, but it just seemed tired and predictable.

So Mel Gibson's back - but back to making predictable nonsense like Payback and Conspiracy Theory rather than anything like Lethal Weapon or Mad Max. Maybe he's easing himself back in before he really delivers again? Unlikely. His next effort is a comedy with Jodie Foster called The Beaver. Sigh. Welcome back, Mel. I can't say we've missed you.

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