Edge Of Darkness review

Mel Gibson returns to the big screen in Edge Of Darkness. Has it been worth the wait? We sent Michael to find out...

In this climate of reboots and remakes of still-warm film franchises, it’s interesting to behold Edge Of Darkness, a television-to-screen adaptation of a series that aired before I was even born (and I’m no spring chicken!). Now, that’s some restraint. As a project, it’s certainly intriguing – the first starring vehicle for Mel Gibson since 2002 that happens to be a gut-punch thriller from Martin Campbell, the solid director who brought us one of the best post-Connery James Bond films (Goldeneye, of course).

Gibson leads as Thomas Craven, a middle-aged Boston detective who is immediately thrust into both grief and intrigue as his daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), is gunned down on his doorstep. Despite early theories that this was a botched killing linked with Craven’s work on the homicide squad, all is not as it seems, but the bereaved father is on the case, chasing leads and cracking skulls to discover the mystery behind the Northsmoor nuclear research facility, where his daughter worked.

Edge Of Darkness wastes little time. Each moment of its sub-two hour runtime is finely tuned for maximum effect, with sharp turns between downbeat introspection and visceral action sequences that recall Campbell’s other James Bond credit, Casino Royale. It’s almost a little too polished a structure, however, as it all flies by with little in the way of distinction or character. Its themes of revenge, mourning and old age are all very rich and interesting, but aren’t fleshed out enough to really stick.

Craven isn’t like similarly greying heroes, such as Indiana Jones or John McClane. He may pack a punch, but his joints and mental state sigh under the pressure, reflected in hallucinations – his daughters voice, or a superimposed memory of years previous – throughout. Narrative-wise, however, this merely translates into little more than a shallow psychological underpinning to his grim determination.

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Likewise, the situation seems generic, even a little outmoded. Craven unearths a conspiracy involving deregulated, amoral institutions led by heartless caricatures (exemplified by Danny Huston’s stiff turn as Northmoor head, Jack Bennett), who deal with crooked politicians and maintain the behind-the-scenes smooth running of the military-industrial complex. Some ties are made to the War on Terror, but it is blatantly not the film’s focus, as the threads unravel towards a messy – both squib-wise and in terms of coherence – conclusion.

Gibson’s performance is restrained, bearing little of the charisma that built his career; indeed, it is interesting seeing the actor play a relatively dull, average type, the sort of role that would fit in the jurisdiction of Robert Duvall or Gene Hackman in the past. The part is, like most of the film, sabotaged by a corny script that peddles cheap dialogue and tired one-liners. This is especially true with another missed opportunity: Ray Winstone’s ambiguous character Darius Jedburgh.

Ostensibly a ‘cleaner’-type operative, Jedburgh is more of an omniscient, Machiavellian deity, granting Craven the opportunity to investigate further, while telling the anxious suits that it is all under control. So goes the theory. In play, Winstone appears awkward in the role, and his appearances are mostly lubrication scenes of tension or exposition.

There are two or three great ideas in Edge Of Darkness, but none are exploited to their full effect. Instead, it is liposuctioned, lean and forgettable, while providing some jarringly exquisite eruptions of action, and enough clunky quips to fuel any night of campy, trashy entertainment.

Edge Of Darkness is in UK cinemas from January 29.

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2 out of 5