Edge of Darkness
Rated R/117 min.
Two out of five stars
There’s a big question this movie presents and it isn’t whether an emotionally shattered cop, played by Mel Gibson, can find out who killed his daughter. The far more pressing uncertainty is whether, following a nearly eight-year absence from the screen—during which time he directed two successful but masochistically violent historical epics and exhibited behavior that’s made him one of the most controversial movie stars alive—audiences will except Mel Gibson back as a leading man. My guess is they will, since Gibson’s grim, commanding lead performance is the best thing about this familiar and exceptionally nasty film from director Martin Campbell.
Gibson inflicts physical destruction on whoever stands in his way on his quest for the ugly truth and, even with movies as old as Death Wish or as recent as Taken playing out this “Dad’s Mad” genre, the carnage is turned up to 11. The abrupt jolts of violence are so severely cruel and graphically depicted, I didn’t know whether to be appalled or impressed. Not since the recent Rambo have I heard an audience frequently yell out a pained “ohhh!” in disbelief and desensitized astonishment.
The story is based on a 1985 British mini-series (from the same director) and wants to be a layered, drawn-out morality drama. Instead we get a by the book, wronged-man-against-the-world revenge flick.
Ray Winstone co-stars in the key role of a shadow figure and, great actor that he is, his cockney accent and muted approach to the part feel out of place. The role is more a plot device than anything else, but Robert De Niro, who was originally cast in the part, could have brought more finesse. Danny Huston is fine as a creep in a three-piece suit, but he’s a solid character actor who is starting to get typecast in these roles. As for Gibson, this isn’t one of his inventively “loony” turns, like Hamlet or the Lethal Weapon; he internalizes his character’s growing madness and while this isn’t one of his casually brilliant performances, his eyes can still convey both fatherly warmth and scary obsession.
Campbell found the right leading man and stages some memorable carnage, but in the end this a cold, seen-it-before B-movie that begins with a shocking act of violence, drags on with awkward sentiment and only springs to life whenever Gibson starts bumping off large portions of the ensemble cast.
Gibson’s still got it, even when he’s sporting an on-again, off-again Boston accent and saying lines like “You had better decide whether you’re hangin’ on the cross…or bangin’ in the nails,” a peculiar, even tasteless choice of dialogue coming from the man who directed the most successful movie about Jesus ever made. Gibson’s next stop on the comeback trail: a comedy directed by Jodie Foster called The Beaver, about a man who lives life wearing a beaver hand puppet. Call me crazy, but there’s no way I’m missing that!