Who’s In It: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Denis O’Hare, Damien Young, Jay O. Sanders
The Basics: Boston cop Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is out for justice after his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is shot and killed on his front porch in gloriously bloody, B-movie fashion. The police think it was one of Craven’s old enemies trying to kill him, but apparently nobody’s got a grudge against Mel Gibson… at least, in the film. So that leaves one other reasonable explanation: Emma was targeted because of her involvement in an environmental terrorist organization that was trying to expose shady dealings at a evil, hippie-killing corporation! And for some reason, a cigar-smoking British CIA fixer (Ray Winstone) keeps showing up to make friends with Craven and sort of but not really help him figure out who’s behind it all. Not that any of the silly plot matters; if you like your Mel Gibson out of control and a little bit crazy, this movie is for you.
What’s The Deal: As far as vengeance thrillers go, Edge of Darkness is overly complex, unapologetically brutal, and yet agonizingly slow. Attempting to whittle down the original six-hour 1985 BBC mini-series of the same name (also directed by Martin Campbell) into a two-hour potboiler, screenwriters Andrew Bovell and William Monahan pack a lot of plot into one movie, making sure there are twists and turns all the way up to the end. And in transplanting the story from England to America, they’ve considerably changed the mini-series’ mystical-environmental message into a disappointingly familiar tale of corporate greed and government malfeasance. But this isn’t just any political conspiracy thriller; it’s the on-screen comeback of Mel Gibson, who gets to expose his teary-eyed paternal side AND shoot bad guys in the head with righteous abandon – a win/win situation for his faltering public image and for folks who enjoy seeing the erstwhile Mad Max go a little bit nuts, even in middle-age.
When Edge Crackles: In its action scenes, far and few between as they are. The Departed scribe Monahan was wisely brought on to punch up and ostensibly “Boston-ize” an early script by Australian playwright Bovell, and as a result we get individual scenes bursting with tense, precise (and most importantly, bloody) action. Scenes like Craven’s close-quarters scuffle with a knife-wielding assailant, the time he kills a car with just his gun and the power of his steely glare, and a brazen, gory, no-holds barred rampage through a guarded mansion bear both Monahan and Campbell’s fingerprints and juice up the film’s otherwise plodding pace.
Not For Fans Of Movies That Make Sense: I won’t go into detail so as to not spoil the labyrinthine plot, but suffice to say that with all of the money, resources, and weapons the bad guys have at their disposal, they make some really stupid decisions to tie up their loose ends. Luckily, those decisions involve either poisoning people until their noses bleed and they projectile vomit or giving them shotgun wounds so gory you can see their spleens, so action fans should be somewhat entertained. Also, throughout the film Mel Gibson sees and talks to his dead daughter, which surprisingly doesn't make him seem any crazier than he already is.
Performances That Span Both Sides Of The Good Acting Spectrum: Denis O’Hare takes his cast mates to school as an acerbic government agent who can’t believe how FUBAR everything’s gone, though he shows up too late to save the plot from sinking into a bog of silly melodramatics. Over at the sucky end of the spectrum is Danny Huston, whose scientific research exec is so oily and obvious that his villainy practically announces itself.
Activist Group Or Indie Rock Band? Unintentional laughs abound, but I’ve made a fun game out of an organization within the film called Night Flower. Is it a bunch of hippie activists or a group of fledgling indie musicians? You decide.