Mel Gibson has been hiding behind the camera, producing and directing since starring in 2002's dreadful Signs, perhaps a wise choice since he spent equal time revealing weird religious philosophies and actively shocking us with his crazy off-screen persona. But now Gibson makes his somewhat triumphant return to the screen in Edge of Darkness, yet another Massachusetts-set crime thriller in which we're forced to spend time debating the authenticity of the actors' Boston accents. The good news is this one is not without its merits.
As it happens, the film is a remake. Director Martin Campbell upgrades his 1985 British mini-series (which he also directed) in which a straight-laced father, an inspector of the local police force, deals with the mysterious death of his activist daughter, and the murkiness of the British Nuclear Policy.
Here we get Tommy Craven (Gibson) a Boston detective, visited by longtime absent daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) who is brutally killed on his doorstep. Police assume the intended victim is Craven. The trouble is, however, Craven had no real enemies (like that's believable), so he goes out on his own to find out what happened and soon unravels a corporate cover up that involves his daughter. Then the race is on in typical rogue-hero-Gibson fashion to coerce or beat the info out of everyone in his path.
Unlike Payback or Ransom or even Conspiracy Theory, Edge of Darkness is not a rage-aholic flick. Edge is actually more subtle, managing to keep our interest, if only to see if the top of Mel's head will actually blow out from the temples.
The movie spins an old-school story in an old-school style and the clichés abound. There's the hit man who has a few months to live, the cop willing to not arrest but kill people for revenge, the activist subplot, the corrupt and evil senator, the iniquitous CEO, and the list goes on.
Yet, despite all this stereotyping, there is something weirdly appealing about this movie. Edge is a throwback to talkative crime thrillers, a slow burner that sometimes lacks tension but contains enough action peppered with just the right amount of gratuitous violence. The flashbacks of better times with Emma and Craven's talks with his daughter's spirit felt annoying but stayed consistent revealing deeper meaning in the end.
As hokey as Darkness gets, it's still anchored by Gibson's performance. Mel may be crazier than a shithouse rat, but when it's "lights-camera-action" he's all business. His features are creased and deeply wrinkled. Although weary looking, he still can turn up the intensity and grimace with the best. Also fun to watch is Ray Winstone as government operative Jedburgh, a "cleaner" of sorts. He likes to impose his wisdom in inopportune moments with a subtle wit and thick cockney accent.
There are some minor irritants, like how everyone plays vinyl records in movies, but there are some great stop-me-if-you've-heard-this-before lines, including, "Chances are I'm already dead," and the classic, "I'm the guy with nothing to lose."
But the best line of them all (considering the Passion of the Christ controversy), is when Craven utters advice to a shady politician, "You gotta decide if yer hanging by the cross or the one banging in the nails." After eight years of seclusion, it looks like Gibson decided which one he is.
Edge of Darkness ★★1/2✩✩
Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Jay O. Sanders, Bojana Novakovic. Directed by Martin Campbell. Rated R