May 25, 2010

Edge of Darkness

Reviewer: Jonathan Poritsky
Rating (out of 5): **

Edge of Darkness, a remake of the highly regarded British miniseries, in the American version is essentially a Michael Clayton-meets-Taken action film that can't capture the best of either of those films. The fun in action movies is less the detailed backstory that leads the villain to do their dastardly deeds and more in figuring out which way the protagonist will lean. Unfortunately, the overly convoluted plot of Edge takes forever to unfold and our hero, Mel Gibson as Boston detective Thomas Craven, is surprisingly one-dimensional.

After Craven's estranged daughter is murdered on his doorstep, he slowly tries to pull his life together. When the police investigation turns up nothing but a bunch of loose ends, he opts to figure things out for himself with the little clues his daughter left behind, slues he cleverly didn't hand over to his brothers in arms. Pulling this thread, he finds his daughter is wrapped up in a government conspiracy that is getting everyone Craven talks to killed.

Ever since his strong and controversial push into directing, Gibson has not had as much screen time in front of the camera. Sadly, Edge of Darkness isn't a return to form as an actor; most of his efforts go to keeping up an affected Boston accent. His eyes are still piercing and he still knows how to play almost dead, kicking ass while bleeding and such, but there is just something missing. He's wooden. Thankfully his supporting cast picks up the slack. Ray Winstone is charmingly mysterious as Jedburgh, an assassin with complex allegiances. The brilliant Danny Huston lights things up as corporate sleaze ball Jack Bennett. Where Gibson may feel stale here, Huston has the incredible ability to talk without saying anything, to look you dead in the eye with a smile and keep you aware of his dark side.

Action-wise things are surprisingly bare. None of the violent set pieces, which are few and far between, are all that inspired save for the murder of Craven's daughter. There is one of the most violent uses of milk in a film, but it became too campy for my tastes by that point. It's actually a disappointment that Craven spends so much of his time connecting the dots to this web of, uh, darkness, instead of doing more what I'd hoped and expected: kicking ass up and down Massachusetts.

Finally, I'd like to say a few words about the director, Martin Campbell, one of the more interesting action directors to watch. It isn't that his films are always so good but that he is not afraid to go a different direction and try new things. He resurrected James Bond twice with Goldeneye and Casino Royale. Just put those two films side by side and look at how starkly different they are, yet how perfectly they fit with the times in which they were released. The perfect Bond for the 90s and the perfect Bond for the 00s came from the same director. Sadly, much of his resume is filled with clumsier genre fare like Edge, and Vertical Limit. It is clear that he is a man who adjusts and learns as he goes. Perhaps Edge of Darkness got something out of his system so we can see some more interesting work from him again. Green Lantern is next on his resume, so here's hoping it knocks our socks off.

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Posted by cphillips at May 25, 2010 11:30 AM

I liked "Darkness" more than Jon (I'd give it 3 stars out of 5) but it pales in comparison to the original British series. Still the film is gripping enough for the first before it gets a bit longwinded and overly convoluted, as Jon says. A couple of shocking scenes, of violence, as a fair warning, too. Gibson does well enough but his role seems so single-minded in a way it's hard to get too involved with his fate. (Though it's not hard to feel empathy for him given the tragic inciting incident.) Anyway, I give it marginal thumb's up...


Posted by: Craig P at June 21, 2010 3:05 PM

Just watched "Edge," Jonathan, and you are so right. What crap! And that phony, feel-good, we're-goin'-to-heaven ending. Gheesh! Everyone concerned with the original series must be puking their guts out.

Posted by: James van Maanen at June 29, 2010 4:25 PM
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