“Edge of Darkness” is a must see this weekend. Read the review and let us know what you think.
Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Green Lantern) revisits the Edge of Darkness in this truncated, Americanized retelling of the award-winning British TV miniseries he directed back in 1985. The original miniseries was one of a number of UK political thrillers, including Defence of the Realm and Hidden Agenda, made during and commenting on the Thatcher era. The feature film remake keeps the basic premise of the small screen original — a cop uncovers political intrigue and corporate corruption while investigating the murder of his daughter — while updating what the villains are up to.
Veteran homicide detective Tom Craven (Mel Gibson) is delighted when his twenty-something daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) comes home to Boston for the weekend, but she’s fatigued, sick and somewhat aloof. Something is clearly wrong with her, but before Tom can learn what that is she is gunned down in what everyone initially assumes was a hit meant for him. Everything changes, however, when Tom finds a Geiger counter and handgun among Emma’s belongings. She worked for Northmoor, a private firm with shady government contracts, and Tom comes to suspect that they were behind her death.
Tom is soon visited by Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone, who replaced Robert De Niro), a British “cleaner” for the U.S. government who is, curiously, as helpful in Craven’s search for the truth as he is vaguely threatening. What did Emma find out about Northmoor that got her killed? And who else was she mixed up with? These are the questions that drive an increasingly desperate and violent Craven to take the fight right to the bad guys’ door.
Mel Gibson hasn’t been seen on-screen as a leading man since 2002’s Signs, but you’d never know he hadn’t acted in front of a camera for the better part of a decade while watching Edge of Darkness. Gibson delivers one of his most restrained and potent performances here, channeling the righteous, vengeful fury we’ve come to expect from “Mad Mel” while also conveying a world-weariness befitting the role of an aging single dad mourning the loss of his only child. Gibson’s subtle performance helps elevate the film from being just another revenge movie or political thriller. (And, as a native Bostonian, I can attest that Gibson does a fine job with the accent, nailing the inflections and attitude.)
The rest of the cast is solid. Winstone is both gruffly sophisticated and subtly sinister as the enigmatic Jedburgh, whose loyalties and agenda are almost as murky as his past. Winstone damn near the steals the show from Gibson. Danny Huston plays his latest villain with a sense of entitlement and white collar aloofness that epitomizes the old line about the banality of evil. Ditto Denis O’Hare as a government stooge and Damian Young as a soulless senator. Jay O. Sanders delivers in his few scenes as a cop colleague of Craven’s. Novakovic isn’t in the movie quite enough to really make too much of a lasting impression, while Shawn Roberts, who is a dead ringer for young David Keith, is a bit forced as Emma’s paranoid boyfriend-colleague.
The screenplay adaptation by Oscar-winner William Monahan and Andrew Bovell has more shadings and nuanced characters than other genre movies of this stripe. (Monahan, a Boston native who scripted The Departed, also brings a lot of local flavor to the piece.) There’s a shorthand used in the depiction of Craven’s relationship with his daughter that’s simple but effective; his flashback to teaching a very young Emma how to shave is both sweet and moving, and will surely pull on the heartstrings of daddy’s girls everywhere. This becomes all the more poignant when Craven finally realizes he didn’t really know her as well as he thought.
Also especially effective are the exchanges between Craven and Jedburgh that mix tension, humor and even a bit of pathos as the latter begins to take stock of his own life while learning more about the former. The dialogue, especially Jedburgh’s doublespeak, is brandished like a weapon by hero and villain alike to threaten people and “clarify” increasingly complicated situations for them. But when words aren’t vicious enough, there are moments of brutality here that prove screen violence can still have genuine emotional impact and shock value.
With Edge of Darkness, director Martin Campbell, the screenwriters and Mel Gibson have delivered a thriller that is, oddly enough, as energetic as it is melancholy, a film that’s rife with political intrigue, populated with captivating characters and punctuated by sporadic bursts of startling violence.