Revenge fantasy: Gibson vs. goons
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Jan. 29, 2010
There's nothing especially edgy or dark, or darkly edgy, or even particularly twilit about "Edge of Darkness," at least as thrillers go. Its title is one of those generic labels, like "Compelling Evidence" or "Deadly Affair," that only hint at what's inside, without telling you the exact flavor or nutritional content.
Here's what you'll find: an elaborate -- and not entirely unsatisfying -- revenge fantasy about a cop who sets out to find his daughter's killer after she's gunned down in front of him on his front porch.
Did I say elaborate? Perhaps painstaking is more like it. Like its hero, Boston police detective Tom Craven (Mel Gibson), "Edge of Darkness" is a methodical and workmanlike thing. After only about five minutes of mourning for his dead child (Bojana Novakovic), Craven washes the blood off his face and gets down to business, running through the list of his daughter Emma's contacts from her cellphone, and systematically contacting them, one by one by one. Soon, he's unearthed a vast -- okay, medium-size -- cabal, conspiracy and coverup involving Emma's defense-contractor employer (Danny Huston), a U.S. senator (Damian Young) and assorted suits, goons, shysters, heavies, fixers and hired guns.
Like one of those highway machines that plows down the middle of the road painting white lines, Craven goes after each of them with single-minded focus, alternately punching, questioning, shooting, threatening, bashing over the head and cajoling in his quest for justice. Or something.
Who is he, someone asks. "I'm the guy with nothing to lose who doesn't give a [expletive]," Craven answers. (After Gibson uttered that line at a recent critics' screening, all you could hear was the sound of 40 pens scribbling in the dark.)
Surprisingly, things aren't quite so plodding as they sound. Yes, we pretty much know as soon as we meet them who the bad guys are, and who the good guys are.
With one exception. As a mysterious man named Jedburgh, who shows up knowing a little about everything, yet doesn't do much of anything, Ray Winstone will keep you guessing as to his character's allegiance until the very end. He's the best -- and most ambiguous -- thing about the film.
Meanwhile, the more Craven digs, the less mystery remains, until the movie is less thriller than foregone conclusion. Let me see, has Craven shot everyone yet? As with "The Lovely Bones," we sort of know -- or at least can guess -- whodunit early on. There's even a ghost of the dead daughter here too, gently guiding and talking to Dad from beyond the grave.
But filmmaker Martin Campbell -- director of the 2006 "Casino Royale" remake, along with the 1985 British miniseries on which "Edge of Darkness" is based -- has a flair for surprise. Even if the surprises are mainly of the car-speeding-out-of-nowhere variety.
The movie isn't exactly full of twists and turns, but neither is it a long, hard slog. As Craven's dogged and (mostly) decent hero who's not above bending the law and jumping out of bathroom windows when being pursued by thugs, Gibson makes suffering -- his own, not other people's -- appear, well, kind of fun. Like Campbell, he appears to take pride in well-made cheese. It ain't art, but it serves its purpose.
Contains strong bloody violence and foul language.