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Friday
Jan292010

Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness has an impressive resume. It's directed by Martin Campbell, the man who helmed the excellent James Bond reboot Casino Royale, written by William Monahan, writer of the Oscar winning picture The Departed and stars Mel Gibson, an excellent actor in his first role in seven years, since 2003's The Singing Detective. It has all the parts needed to come together and create an amazing, visceral action picture. So where did things go wrong? Or more precisely, how in the world did these talents come together to create such a mediocre product?

The film follows Craven (Mel Gibson), a Boston detective who has just picked up his daughter (Bojana Novakovic) from the airport. Once she arrives, however, she starts to puke and her nose bleeds uncontrollably. In a panic, she tells her father she needs to go to the hospital, but before they do she insists on telling him something. Before she can get it out, a man in a ski mask appears at the front door and kills her with a shotgun blast to the chest. Craven, now a man with nothing to live for, goes on the hunt to find her killer and unravel the conspiracy that led to her demise.

So basically what I'm saying is that it's your typical revenge flick. Although this does differentiate itself a bit from the others, namely because his kid dies for a reason rather than just plain bad luck (like in 2007's Death Sentence), which gives the protagonist something to track other than the murderer, it's still a routine revenge movie where a vigilante father goes berserk on the baddies with a wide assortment of firearms.

Which is fine. I'm all for a good revenge movie, but Edge of Darkness fails to keep consistent with the whole novelty of the sub-genre. More often than not, nobody really cares about the fallen family member so much as the bullets that fly afterwards. This is no different. Craven's daughter is onscreen for such a small amount of time that it's impossible to truly care about her, even after she's filled with holes, but the movie nevertheless tries to wrangle some teardrops out of nothing. After she is killed, Craven takes her ashes to the beach and dumps them in the ocean, reflecting back on the film's opening 30 seconds that shows an old family video where she is playing in the water as a kid, which is hardly a set-up for an emotional payoff. My complaint isn't the fact that the film lacked emotion. Rather, it's that it tried too hard to force that emotion through when none was really needed.

Now, there are only a couple of things I hated in Edge of Darkness and for every bad thing, there's a great one to balance it out. For instance, the acting is terrific. It's a return to form for Mel Gibson. His gritty determination as the hellbent father vowing justice for his fallen daughter is played pitch perfectly, even if he is forced to act out a few ridiculous scenes where he sees the ghost of her or hears her voice speaking to him. Couple him with another great actor, Ray Winstone, who plays a government operative sent to clean up their messes, and you have a sublime pair whose scenes play out like a fluid dance. Their dialogue together is wonderful and neither outshine the other. They simply do their part in telling the story. Their scenes together are easily the best part of this movie.

Unfortunately, the skillful panache of those scenes does little more than draw attention to how haphazard the rest of the production is. Some scenes don't fit into the flow of the story, working as an unnecessary way to break up the talking with some action, the material doesn't stay completely afloat during its two hour run time and the final shot of the movie is, I'm pretty sure, the dumbest possible way this thing could have ended.

That's not to say this is a bad movie. It's not. It's just a painfully mediocre one. I'm tempted to recommend Edge of Darkness anyway given the poor quality of movies this month, but it is in its failure to realize its own potential that prevents me from doing so.

Edge of Darkness receives 2.5/5