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Entries in Edge of Darkness [2010] (1)


Edge of Darkness, 2010

The Detarded

I approached the “edge of darkness” several times during Mel Gibson’s new movie, which is to say I had a hard time staying awake. Never have I seen such an interesting cast in such a well-shot picture slog through such a boring 108 minutes.

Edge of Darkness stars Gibson as Boston (sorry, “Baaah-stin”) detective Tommy Craven, whose activist daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is gunned down on his front porch by a masked assailant. It turns out Emma worked for a private defense company whose CEO is in league with the government to produce allegedly foreign-made weapons on U.S. soil (a sort of back-pocket pre-emptive strike option, I guess). Emma and three environmental activists tried to get evidence of the crime and were subsequently killed. Of course, we don’t learn any of this until about an hour into the movie, as we’re introduced to myriad superfluous characters and red-herring sub-plots that involve Tommy leaving behind police protocol and busting heads.

If this sounds like a throwback to the good old days of Lethal Weapon, it’s not. Lethal Weapon was a mystery that had the good sense to stay on course and provide lots of crazy action and violence, letting the audience believe that they were experiencing thinking-man’s ‘splosions. Edge of Darkness gets bogged down in shabby knife fights and face punches in the service of about five thousand pointless conversations between actors who are either undeserving of sharing the screen with their co-stars, or are too good and too embarrassed to deliver their clunky lines. About an hour’s worth of scenes could be trimmed from this movie and the central story and decent surprises would still be just as effective. Edge of Darkness is too dumb to be a good political thriller and not exciting enough to be an action movie.

And that’s a real shame, considering director Martin Campbell gave us the superb Casino Royale, a movie that, while over-long, managed to excite the mind and the pulse. Here, the material he’s trying to bring to life is a convoluted mash-up of the man-on-a-mission revenge fantasy. Tommy’s frequent visions of his daughter as a young girl and the intermittent presence of a shadowy enforcer named Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) are meant to add weight to the picture, but they pop up too often and add absolutely zero forward momentum to the story. So instead of being moved or intrigued, we’re left to marvel at Winstone’s pronunciation of the word “daughter”, which comes out, “doe-uh”. I mean, I know he’s a great English actor, but here he comes off as an Eastern Kentuckian doing Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

Speaking of distractions, whose genius idea was it to put Mel Gibson into so many scenes with actors who are waaaay taller than he is? And is everyone in Boston obsessed with Ginger Ale? Is that a local thing I’m not hip to? Why did Martin Campbell waste so much time and money on the scene where Tommy gets knocked out in his kitchen, kidnapped and taken to a nuclear facility only to awaken, knock out the guards and return to his kitchen (in the span of three minutes’ screen time)? Sorry, all of this went through my head while I was busy not being stimulated by the events on the screen.

It’s hard to believe that Edge of Darkness is based on a mini-series; in my opinion, there’s just enough plot to flesh out a decent episode of 24. I left the theatre angry, tired and confused. Some have hailed this movie as Mel Gibson’s triumphant return to acting. If that’s the case, I hope he remembers that some of his greatest roles were buoyed not by macho bluster and handguns but by screenplays that knew the difference between a well-scripted cover-up and gratuitous diversions meant to cover up weak writing.