Written by: Kit Bowen, Special to CC2K
Mel Gibson's return to the big screen isn't bad, but it won't return him to the A-list.
On the surface, Edge of Darkness might seem like your typical violent revenge thriller, but it actually has some intriguing layers and surprising twists that get your full attention.
Of course, one of those layers is the film's star, Mel Gibson, who returns to the big screen after an eight year absence, looking a little worse for wear but still very commanding. He plays Tom Craven, a veteran Boston cop, who tragically watches his beloved 24-year-old daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) get blasted by a shotgun right in front of him. Everyone thinks HE was supposed to be the intended target, being a detective and all, but Craven doesn't buy it and soon begins investigating the how and the why. What he uncovers shows him aspects about his only daughter's life he never knew: She had a boyfriend; She worked for a top-secret nuclear facility; and most importantly, she was trying to expose something potentially damaging on a national level.
This last layer, as it were, sets Edge of Darkness apart from the usual grieving-ticked-off dad-looking-to-kill-all-those-involved-in-daughter's-death scenario because the film is actually an adaptation of a 1985 award-winning BBC miniseries of the same name. Helmed by Martin Campbell, the miniseries' original director, you get the sense they tried to cram as much of the six-part miniseries into a two-hour movie as they could. But award-winning screenwriters William Monahan (The Departed) and Andrew Bovell still manage to create a cohesive storyline. There's plenty of revengeful acts and bloodshed to be had, but the story becomes as much a murder mystery with political and conspiratorial undertones as anything else. As Craven starts to dig, he turns up some ugly stones, including the nuclear facility's Machiavellian chief Bennett (played with relish by Danny Huston, one of the go-to actors to play villains), as well as a British assassin named Jedburgh (portrayed brilliantly by the always good Ray Winstone) – a mysterious, if slightly menacing, piece to the whole puzzle. Listen carefully when he's on screen, though; I'm sure I missed something, due to his soft tones and accent.
Speaking of accents, Gibson does a fair job with the whole Boston cadence but does lapse here and there. It doesn't really matter, though. Gibson knew Edge of Darkness was the right kind of project to make his big-screen comeback with and eases into familiar territory, shooting guns, running bad guys down and delivering lines like I'm the guy with nothing to lose. It's all vintage Mel – and honestly, it's not that bad to have him back. He also has a nice rapport with Serbian actress Novakovic, for the brief time they have together as father and daughter. They are convincing, which, in turn, makes what Craven does understandable. Unlike say Taken (which coincidentally was released this time last year), another father-daughter relationship that isn't nearly as believable, even though Liam Neeson kicks even harder ass than Gibson.
Edge of Darkness is definitely a compelling thriller, but don't count on Mel Gibson to regain his A-list stardom right away. He'll need to earn it again.
Kit Bowen is an entertainment journalist and movie critic. She was formerly the Managing Editor for Hollywood.com and currently blogs for her site TheMovieKit.com.