For those of you who have seen the trailer for Edge of Darkness, you will most likely think its an action-revenge film in the same vein as last year’s Taken. You will also be proven wrong once you see this. Warner Bros has clearly been marketing this for the Taken crowd and this movie is anything but that.

Mel Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a Boston cop who in the beginning of the film has just picked up his daughter, Emma, who is a nuclear engineer visiting her father. About 10 minutes into the film, Emma is violently killed by some unknown assailants on her father’s porch. Distraught, Craven sets out to find his daughter’s killers, which leads him down an intricate web involving dirty politics and corporate greed.

Edge of Darkness is based on a British TV miniseries of the same name that was also directed by Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale). This should have been a give-away considering how difficult it is to condense a lengthy miniseries into 2 relatively short hours. Some films have managed to pull this off, most recently with last year’s State of Play and 10 years ago with the Oscar-winning Traffic. However, it remains a difficult enough task for me to assume the film version won’t be successful. This time I was correct in my assumption.

For those keeping count, this is the first movie Mel Gibson has starred in since 2002 when he came out with When We Were Soldiers and Signs. Since that time, he has directed 2 films and been involved in an infamous incident involving him making anti-Semetic remarks, which almost blackballed him from Hollywood. Although I think Gibson’s actions were deplorable, I still regard him as an entertaining actor, a good filmmaker, and someone I will continue to watch. Here, however, I didn’t feel like I was getting the old Mel Gibson I used to like. I’m not sure whether I should blame the screenplay by William Monahan (The Departed), Martin Campbell’s direction, or Gibson’s seemingly unmotivated spirit in giving us such a lackluster performance.

One of the things I so enjoyed about the Lethal Weapon movies was when we got to the point in the film where Gibson just snaps and goes psycho on the bad guys for screwing with him. There was always an element of craziness to his Lethal Weapon character and I wished that was present in Edge of Darkness as well. I was especially expecting this during the first Act where Craven loses his daughter. Instead, Gibson gives a surprisingly subdued performance that felt inauthentic and, as a result, took me out of the film. There are a few convincing moments later in the film where Craven expresses his grief for his daughter, especially toward the end, but these emotional scenes are too far and in between to make up for the film’s failures.

Two characters I really took a liking to were Ray Winstone’s and Danny Huston’s. Winstone plays this shady CIA operative who basically does damage control for the government. My one gripe about Winstone is the same one I always have anytime I see him in a movie. It is very difficult for me to understand what he is saying and I attribute that to a combination of him mumbling and his heavy British accent. Regardless, however, Winstone is a wonderful actor and he’s an interesting character in this movie. Huston plays the president of a weapons research company. It helps that Huston has the face of a total asshole, but his performance here and his delivery of the film’s meatiest lines make him a great villain that you can’t wait to see get killed.

The film’s intricate and sometimes confusing plot makes it pretty obvious it was based on a TV miniseries. As I said before, this is a difficult job to pull off for any writer. So much gets lost in the translation and compression of the miniseries that, in the end, it feels like you’re watching a book report synopsis of the miniseries instead of a stand-alone film that can be evaluated and appreciated on its own. There are many scenes that feel disjointed and almost random, which indicates that the miniseries probably had longer and more fully developed versions. Consequently, the film version doesn’t resonate with the audience whereas the TV version probably does. Again, you lose a lot in the translation and compression of a miniseries and this is clearly evident here.

Another problem Edge of Darkness suffers from is its outdated subject matter. The film deals with nuclear weapons research, political cronyism, and corporate cover-ups. These are themes that were more prevalent and timely during the 80s, 90s, and the last decade. I have read that the miniseries was made during the 80s and it reflected the Cold War. I could sense when I watched the film. Now I don’t think there is necessarily wrong with a story dealing with old issues, but this movie presents itself as a movie set in the present time, thereby making it feel outdated in a bad way.

I was not a big fan of Edge of Darkness. I was looking forward to this being Mel Gibson’s triumphant return to the silver screen, but all I got was a slowly paced political revenge thriller that felt old-fashioned. I believe Gibson is coming out with 2 more movies later this year so if you’re itching to see Gibson again on the big screen, wait for those films instead.

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