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The Independent Critic

Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts
Martin Campbell
William Monahan, Andrew Bovell, Troy Kennedy Martin (television series)
Rated R
117 Mins.
Warner Brothers

 "Edge of Darkness" Review 
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Had Edge of Darkness, the alleged comeback Mel Gibson comeback flick, actually been centered around Ray Winstone's performance as Jedburgh, a killer with a conscience, it seems entirely likely that the film would have been one of 2010's early delights and a top-notch action film. Instead, however, the film directed by Martin Campbell, who also directed the BBC six-part series upon which the film is based, centers squarely upon Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) as a lonely Boston cop whose adult daughter (Bojana Novakovic) is brutally gunned down in front of his home in what nearly everyone believes is a case of mistaken identity and that Craven himself was the likely target.

Of course, in a crime thriller nothing is ever what it seems and it quickly becomes apparent, at least to Craven, that there's more going on than what everybody thinks. His search for the truth uncovers a web of lies, government conspiracies, cover-ups and corporate secrets that could very well jeopardize the welfare of a nation.

Directed by Martin Campbell, who also directed the BBC series, Edge of Darkness is a disappointing vehicle for Gibson's first acting duty since well before his 2006 anti-semitic, alcohol-fueled tirade that revealed a side of the actor most would have preferred to have stayed locked away. Gibson is a natural for the roll of Craven, yet another in a long line of vengeful, stoic figures he has portrayed and he's even tackled the whole vengeful father routine with great success. Yet, rather quickly, something feels not quite right about Edge of Darkness and a huge part of the problem falls into the lap of Gibson. Gibson, who manages to project the seething rage just fine, seems to be boiling from the film's get go and yet, on the flip side, spends much of the film seemingly stumbling from scene to scene with a passive detachment that makes it hard to develop anything remotely resembling sympathy for the vengeful, weary Craven. Gibson looks older, acts older and feels older but, perhaps more tragically, he simply lacks the emotional range to turn Craven's journey into a journey that anyone will care about for any length of time.

Winstone, on the other hand, is a marvel as a government operative who works as a "cleaner," an undercover operative whose sole responsibility seems to be the cleaning up of messes that jeopardize political and national security. When Winstone, who replaced the original cast Robert DeNiro when DeNiro walked out a few days into shooting over creative differences, comes onscreen Edge of Darkness instantly sparkles and he effortlessly seems to elevate everyone else's performance in the process. Of course, it likely helps that co-writers William Monahan and Andrew Bovell give Jedburgh the film's best lines and Winstone makes the most of them with a quiet, nearly breathy delight.

Danny Huston, who has never seen a bad guy he wouldn't portray, does a nice job as Jack Bennett, the REALLY obviously ill-meaning head of the nuclear facility where Craven's daughter worked and the center of the film's goings on. Bojana Novakovic is solid as Craven's daughter, though Edge of Darkness goes way overboard with flashback scenes and hallucinatory grief scenes that lack emotional resonance and do nothing to really support the storyline.

Campbell, who also has directed a couple Bond films including Daniel Craig's "Casino Royale," does fine when Edge of Darkness is moving quickly and the action is free flowing, however, his tremendous style loses impact when he can't quite seem to manage the film's more emotionally demanding expository scenes and the film's pacing just flails about as Gibson meanders from scene to scene. It was as if his man with no face became a man with no character.

Filled to the brim with Gibson's trademark Catholic references and an abundance of not even remotely subtle "I don't drink" scenes, Edge of Darkness certainly looks solid with a sort dark, gritty production design blending nicely with Phil Meheux's lensing and Howard Shore's original score.

While Edge of Darkness may very well be an ideal role for Gibson's first post-tirade cinematic vehicle, the final result is a disappointing mishmash of performances past and virtually every other crime thriller ever made. While a romantic comedy at this juncture in Gibson's career would have likely been a laughable choice, Edge of Darkness manages to cover all the films of Gibson's film history without any of the charm, charisma and personality that turned Gibson into an A-lister. Diehard Gibson fans may very well still rejoice, but when it comes right down to it the multi-layered, hypnotic turn from Ray Winstone is the real reason to catch Edge of Darkness.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic