Edge of Darkness

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 01/31/10 20:00:06

"Welcome back, Mel, you crazy diamond."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Heís been offscreen for some years, so we may have forgotten that Mel Gibson does crazy-obsessed better than anyone.

Gibson is convincing in the full throes of rage, but he also plays gradations and variations; occasionally youíll see his character do the mental equivalent of dousing himself with ice water so that he can focus. What Gibson gives us in Edge of Darkness goes far beyond whatís written for him. His Thomas Craven, grieving his murdered daughter and barreling through everyone to find out why she was killed, is a portrait in desolation. Craven is sick down to his bones over the loss, and when his daughter (as a little girl) sometimes appears to him and he talks to her, he doesnít even seem very surprised sheís there.

The rest of Edge of Darkness is a rather by-the-numbers corporate thriller. Cravenís daughter, you see, was working for a shady nuclear-development organization, and ... yeah, I really didnít care. Cravenís opponents, including a slick-as-goose-shit Danny Huston, are generally such a wimpy bunch that thereís no doubt justice will be served and the daughter will be avenged. Though smoothly directed by Martin Campbell (who also helmed the 1985 British miniseries the film is based on), the movie is short on twists, intrigue and ingenuity; Craven is a Boston detective but hardly does any detective work (mainly he just beats information out of people). But I wonder if itís really meant to be a thriller.

Early on, after Cravenís daughter has been shotgunned in front of him and she dies in his arms, Craven is finally alone in his bathroom, wiping her blood off his face with a hand towel. What happens next is perfect, particularly since itís never referred to again: Craven stuffs the bloody towel into a glass, while the blood on his hands gets rinsed down the drain. Itís such a weird, personal detail (I donít know if itís a holdover from the miniseries); itís as if he canít bear to let her blood ó his blood ó get washed away. Gibson walks heavily through the plot, making Craven almost physically anguished, in a daze of grief and guilt (the suggestion that Craven was the real target is short-lived).

Ray Winstone turns up as a mysterious fixer who cleans up the messes made by the powerful. I couldnít understand half of what he said, but he and Gibson make an unstable, mutually wary team. Winstoneís character is reflective; near the end of his life, he has no children, nobody to bury him, nothing to show for the choices heís made. The conversations between these two men generally start off relevant to the mystery and then head off into sadly philosophical directions.

But then weíre yanked back into the thriller apparatus, with men in dark suits plotting in cold, gleaming rooms, and people performing info-dumps and then getting knocked off on cue. These scenes are staged with a perfunctory letís-get-this-over-with vibe. The soul of the movie is the two heavy-hearted men trying to set things right before theyíre through. This isnít Ikiru, so Craven doesnít build a playground ó he just shoots people in the kneecaps. But the essence is somewhat the same. The final scene will strike some as goofy, but to me it felt earned (and ambiguous ó it could be a hallucination).

"Edge of Darkness" is about father-daughter devotion and what happens to it when the daughter dies. And Gibson brings his full tormented game: whateverís wrong with the movie, it isnít him.

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