Who's In It: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic
The Basics: "They" killed Mel's daughter. And being a cop he thinks the gunfire was meant for him. He's wrong, of course. But once he figures out that he's got an entire conspiracy to unravel he goes after every obvious bad guy and probable bad guy and Facebook friend of bad guy with the kind of methodical ingenuity reserved exclusively for films where one just man takes on a corrupt web of lies, greed and murder. The results are pleasurably tense, paranoid, violent, gloomy and depressing. It's Taken, minus the histrionic slaughter, grim reactionary politics, most of the face-kicking and the perversely happy ending.
What's The Deal: Films like this are musicals for people who enjoy gunfire and Mel Gibson being shouty. They're that satisfyingly heightened version of reality no one actually gets to experience. In real life, murder investigations that uncover a swarming mass of evil with players found at the top of the political and business world food chain pretty much never come along. You'll be abducted by a UFO and get verifiable physical proof before you break open a criminal case like this. But in a movie it just takes one really tireless dude who never sleeps or eats and who, though nearly 60, can go mano a mano with men half his age and break their faces with one punch. And that kind of thing totally has a place in the fake-stuff-we-like-anyway culture heap. Here's January 2010's entry for that pile.
How You Know Who The Main Bad Guy Is Without Even Being Told: Because veteran character actor Danny Huston walks into the well-appointed room of a sleek CEO's office/villain's lair and starts talking about the weather. That guy's whole career is pretty much playing the soft-spoken creepo in a suit who's secretly planning to have you murdered by a covert operative disguised as a pizza delivery boy and then get your dismembered head dumped on your grandma's front porch because she's his actual target and he really wants to give her a heart attack before he has the rest of her organs harvested.
Best Shout Out To The Passion Of The Christ: Mel Gibson has really ramped up the big-screen suffering in the past decade, whether he's directing or starring. This, of course, makes him way more fascinating than he's ever been (side note: if you really want to see him weird-out, go watch Wim Wenders' Million Dollar Hotel). So as you watch this movie and you realize where his character is going to end up, you're not fully surprised. And though he didn't need to toss in a line about how an ambivalent secondary character should decide if he's "the one hanging from the cross or the one pounding in the nails," it's another reminder that you're watching this guy age into the most rueful former sex symbol American movies have to offer.
Where You Might Have Seen All This Before: It's based on a BBC miniseries. Which is why the plot feels condensed and sometimes rushed and always convoluted and occasionally baffling. Pay attention or you'll get lost in the maze.