Taking some time off from drink driving, insulting police officers, broadcasting his charming and enlightened views on women, Jews and homosexuals and proselytizing Catholicism while impregnating his mistress, Mel Gibson is back on the big screen. Edge of Darkness is a remake of a British TV series, and, as you might have guessed from the title, it’s not a comedy. The film pits a maverick cop out to avenge his family (hurray!) against big business (boo!), and, even worse, big nuclear business (double boo!). Can you pick your way through the subtle shades of moral ambiguity?
Appearing in heart-warming home videos in Hollywood usually means a character won’t make it to the end credits alive, so it’s no surprise when Boston detective Mel’s daughter – whom we first see in grainy family footage as a cute kid at the seaside – meets an unfortunate accident five minutes into the movie. What looks initially like a botched hit on a cop soon becomes something much bigger, when bereaved Mel’s enquiries (yes, he’s allowed to work on the investigation into his own daughter’s death; no conflict of interest there) lead him to her workplace, a shady nuclear company. Further sniffing around uncovers a vast conspiracy that (and in a plot twist that might come as a shock to Gibson himself, it doesn’t involve the Jews) goes… brace yourself… straight to the heart of government. Who would have thought?
Things go a bit X-Files as Mel searches for the truth, pursued by sinister agents (who are, as usual, wearing black suits and driving black SUVs. Don’t these people ever realise that they are being a bit obvious? It’s like a burglar going around in a stripy jumper, eye mask and bag marked swag.) As those involved get bumped off one by one in brutal ways – and the film pulls no punches here – dogged Mel hunts down the top players in the plot. It’s mostly standard conspiracy thriller stuff. In between the episodes of gut-churning violence, Mel enjoys some whimsical, Ally McBeal type chats with his deceased daughter. And though he’s devastated, he’s not too choked up to make a few wisecracks on his rounds.
The predictable unfolding of the story is slightly enlivened by the presence of Ray Winstone, as a shadowy CIA fixer with opaque loyalties. Winstone was drafted in to replace Robert de Niro, who dropped out of the film and probably doesn’t hugely regret it. Cigar-smoking Winstone steals every scene he’s in, but Gibson delivers a perfectly serviceable turn as the jaded cop/avenging angel. He should – he’s played the same role on numerous occasions and he’s certainly not short of dealings with real police officers to drawn on.
Overlooking the script – which is from the “Fasten your seatbelt” school of screenplay writing – and the cheesiness that reaches wincing proportions towards the end, some of the scenes are well shot, and there is enough tension in the whistle-blowing story to prevent the viewer completely losing patience. But Edge of Darkness lacks the class and gravitas of other big business conspiracy movies, such as The Constant Gardener and The Insider. It is best viewed as a revenge flick comeback vehicle for Mel Gibson. And some good PR, with Mel, for once, in a sympathetic role, working for the police rather than abusing them, and targeting government skulduggery rather than Jewish or gay people.
Director: Martin Campbell
Starring (voices): Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Jay O. Sanders
On at: Cinema City, Starplex