© 2010 Ray Wong
Based on a British TV series, Edge of Darkness explores a parent's grief and vengeance with a touch of corporate greed and dirty politics.
Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson), a Boston cop, is the widowed father of daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic), a research scientist. When Emma returns home for a visit, she is soon gunned down at the front door of Craven's house. At first, Craven believes the gunman was targeting him, and he vows to find out the killer.
Soon, he discovers there's more to the story than the surface evidence. It seems that Emma was working on a top-secret project at a corporation in D.C., headed by Jack Bennett (Danny Huston). Without clearance, Craven's getting nowhere with his investigation. Then a mysterious man, Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), visits Craven and tells him to back off. Of course, Craven would not oblige. Craven's probes eventually lead him to a deep conspiracy, involving powerful politicians, that has already resulted in multiple deaths. With nothing to lose, Craven presses on to avenge his daughter's death.
It's been a while since Mel Gibson (Signs) last went in front of the cameras. Thomas Craven is his first action hero role in a long time, and Gibson's still got it. Much older and mature, Gibson gives a solid performance both as a grieving father and a calculated, hardboiled detective. It's easy to identify and sympathize with the character.
Ray Winstone (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) has a secondary but pivotal role as Jedburgh. He and Gibson play well together, but somehow his role is too peripheral to make any real impact, until the end. Danny Huston (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) is slick as the corporate weasel but the character is rather rote and clichéd.
Bojana Novakovic (Drag Me to Hell) is fine and sympathetic as Craven's daughter, Emma. Shawn Roberts (I Love You, Beth Cooper) is aptly intense for the role of Emma's boyfriend. Denis O'Hare (The Proposal) is in fine form as a government weasel, and Damian Young (Everybody's Fine) is equally rogue as Senator Pine.
Written by The Departed veteran William Monahan and Andrew Bovell (Blessed), the screenplay is taut and intense. However, it lacks focus; it's hard to decide what kind of movie they're trying to make: Is it a mystery? An action thriller? A story about redemption? At the end, we get a revenge story starring one of Hollywood's biggest stars. There's nothing wrong with it, but Monahan and Bovell make a few mistakes. The story is largely told from Craven's point of view and wonderfully so. However, at various points, the writers break the point of view to review information not privy to the central character. That kind of exposition spoils the suspense.
Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) has a sharp eye for action-thrillers. However, the pacing seems off at times. Partially the blame lies on the writers, but Campbell hasn't helped either by slowing down the pace to focus on Craven's grief. It's great for character development, but when coupled with the slow revelation of pertinent information -- and the audience is way ahead of the plot, having been explained what happened and who was behind it -- the plot feels interminable at times. I find myself saying, "Get on with it already. How dumb is Craven?" The final shift in Craven's attitude also comes a bit too late; although, in all fairness, it is satisfying.
Edge of Darkness is a by-the-book, pretty-good mystery-action thriller. Unfortunately, there's simply not enough edge or darkness to make it very good.
Stars: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts, David Aaron Baker, Jay O. Sanders, Denis O'Hare, Damian Young
Director: Martin Campbell
Writers: William Monahan, Andrew Bovell (based on TV series written by Troy Kennedy-Martin)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 8
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 7.1 out of 10