Edge of Darkness
When will people realize not to mess with Mel Gibson’s family? Whether they go after his wife in BRAVEHEART, his son in RANSOM, or his daughter here in EDGE OF DARKNESS, the enemies Mel faces become the victims of his incomparable rage. I say his rage is incomparable because I am truly impressed with every way Gibson shows it to us, with trembling hands, with grimaces and facial expressions, with the looks in his eyes – and then of course he uses that rage to beat the hell out of the bad guys. A great example of his anger without the ass-kicking can be seen in his declaration of hatred for God in SIGNS as Kieran Culkin fights to breathe. But we like the ass-kicking, and in that EDGE OF DARKNESS delivers. However, to get to it we go through a convoluted plot with mysterious characters and corporate/government conspiracies. It made me wish for a simpler setup for Mel to unleash his rage.
Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a Boston cop without the typical cop problems. His wife is gone, but we don’t hear if he’s a divorcee or a widower. He doesn’t drink and he’s not dirty. He’s a loving father whose daughter (Bojana Novacovic) moved away to work for an evil corporation, Northmoor. Of course, he doesn’t know the corporation is evil at first, and when his daughter is gunned down in the first 7 minutes of the film (I love how quickly they set up the revenge plot), he assumes he was the target. As he digs into the case, he gets close enough to Northmoor for them to enlist the services of their cleaner/fixer, Darius Jedburgh, who actually ends up assisting Thomas out of a crisis of conscience we rarely see in that character. The film then takes on a blue-collar workman versus corporate fat cat vibe as Gibson uses his fists to interrogate those involved, and those involved keep getting higher on the corporate and political ladder. Despite the confusing inner dealings and mysterious political players, the final act comes down to Gibson rolling in Dodge City-style for revenge, the way we want it to, but also with a final caveat that seems to come out of nowhere.
The main characters in the plot do their jobs well. Ray Winstone plays his cryptic character in the same ilk as Harvey Keitel’s Mr. Wolf in PULP FICTION, but takes a left turn at Albuquerque with the dialogue given to him in cryptic references it seems were added to make the screenwriter appear smart. Danny Huston plays his part well, as the corporate head of Northmoor, scared of Gibson’s threatening nature, but also aware of his power and ability to crush him. Huston has to play a variety of emotions with a variety of characters and all of them feel natural for his character. Gibson is great in this type of role, balancing the investigatory and physical nature of his task evenly, all the while burning with that fire of vengeance we want to see. However, there are too many scenes where he flashes back to his daughter as a child. Yeah, we get it. He’s heartbroken by the death of his daughter. Don’t go to the well too often, it gets redundant and in the end it feels like they’re just trying to add unnecessary minutes to the movie.
Gibson has aged well, still able to do these kinds of physical, ass-kicking roles, but has the added capability to sell the emotion we would expect for a father in this situation. The problem with this movie is not the acting but the plot and the script. On further observance, I’d almost prefer the killer had been hunting Mel instead of his daughter, and he had to investigate a plethora of low life ex-cons to find the killer who also spent the movie still trying to kill him. This would avoid the anti-corporation/anti-government propaganda portion of the flick and focus on the part we really care about: Mel hunting bad guys, busting heads to do it. It’s a simple formula, but effective.