Remember Mel Gibson? No, not the recent Mel whose exploits have landed him in hot water - the OLD Mel. Mad Max, William Wallace, Riggs… he’d been a pretty darn good movie star before he moved behind the camera. 2010 marks his return to acting, with his first starring role in eight years in a remake of the British TV series Edge of Darkness.
Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a homicide detective in Boston, who witnesses the brutal death of his daughter at the hands of an unknown gunman. Bent on revenge, he begins his own, off-the-record investigation into her murder, only to find she was involved in a ‘classified’ incident involving the boss of a local nuclear treatment plant (Danny Huston). With several enemies after him, his only ally is a cleaner known only as Jedburgh (Ray Winstone).
Oh dear. Given the calibre of the director (Casino Royale’s’Martin Campbell) and the star – not to mention the source material - Edge of Darkness is a labyrinth story poorly executed. There’s too much going on plot-wise and, when combined with a terrible script (unbelievably written by the same man who scripted The Departed) means you end up not caring. Campbell works the tension well, and there are moments when you really think the story is gaining pace, but then a ridiculous set piece or corny line (“I’m the guy with NOTHING TO LOSE!!!”) ruins it.
The cast is well chosen - Huston is perfecting his corporate bad guy routine he started in Wolverine and How To Lose Friends… and is the only strong(ish) performance in the film. Conversely, Winstone is laughable. Taking over Robert De Niro (who presumably read the script and had a change of heart), he’s miscast as the shadowy company man, partly because he’s so conspicuous but also because as Jedburgh he’s a walking cliché, like a bad impression of a character from Men In Black. Gibson has his moments; in the aftermath of the murder he’s very good, but let down by a list of annoyances, such as his Mickey Rooney-like accent, and a ridiculous plot device where Craven talks to his daughter (a device which contributes to the awful end sequence).
It’s not a complete disaster, but a big disappointment given the talent involved. It starts as an intriguing investigation thriller, but soon attempts to become the thinking man’s Taken, and so descends into mediocrity. Gibson’s got some promising projects coming up, and hopefully they’ll be a lot better thought out than this.
Edge Of Darkness is released on January 29.