Edge of Darkness
“Why couldn’t I have taken the bus tonight?”

Theatrical Release Date: 01/29/2010
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic

Let’s make one thing clear, as an actor you may not want to be cast as Mel Gibson’s kid. Whether it’s being kidnapped in “Ransom”, besieged by aliens in “Signs”, killed in “Mad Max”, killed in “The Patriot” or killed in his latest conspiracy thriller “Edge of Darkness”, often enough, if you see someone cast as his child expect them to undergo some major trauma.

This time around, following the death of his only daughter (Bojana Novakovic), Gibson (who plays a Boston police detective with a wicked bad and wandering accent) throws the legal system in the gutter and goes about unraveling the mystery behind it all. There’s a large conspiracy going on here and while there’s no Julia Roberts to help out, he does get some indirect assistance from Ray Winstone, a clean up man for the U.S. government.

While one may think what they will of Gibson for his off camera transgressions, there’s something comforting in watching him take down bad guys. I guess growing up with the Lethal Weapon franchise hardwires that emotion into one’s psyche. As such, it’s easy to revel in his blatant disregard for the law as he attempts to find the person/persons responsible for his daughter’s murder. Gibson does fine in the action scenes, especially when he gets to throw in a sarcastic remark while forcefully driving home the point to whichever evil doer he has in front of him at the time. The more emotional scenes don’t play quite as well but I doubt anyone’s in the theater for touchy feely sentimentality, and rather more so to see him beat people up.

As enjoyable as watching Gibson go about his business can be at times, the savior of my sanity while viewing the film was Ray Winstone. It’s a no brainer to bring him in when you need a guy to be scary and imposing, but intelligent as well. Only a few actors pull this off well these days (Gary Oldman comes to mind) but Winstone’s distinguishing characteristic is being able to make these characters sympathetic along the way. Usually, this role is simply a one note bad ass who clears a room with his gun. Winstone takes it to a new level and the casting department really earned their paycheck getting him for this role (though if you’re going to see a Ray Winstone movie this month, check out “44 Inch Chest“).

The only other actor really worth mentioning here is Danny Huston. I say this not so much because he did anything spectacular but because whenever I see him in a film, I instantly know who the villain is. Can someone please give him a nice guy to play on film? Maybe I’m just blocking it out, but the slimy quality to his characters always comes through and it’s no surprise when he’s the one causing trouble.

That’s not a spoiler I just gave out. You know exactly who’s good and who’s bad in this film and that’s the biggest failing. While elements are thrown out to be surprising, or at least confusing for the sake of the conspiracy element, if you’ve seen any film in this genre you know where this is headed about five minutes in. The only difference between this and a number of other revenge flicks is how Winstone’s character fits into all of it. While the best element involved, you could have removed it entirely and needed very little editing to make the rest of the film fit together. It’s almost as if this part of the script was grafted onto the rest of it once filming began because Winstone was in town for a few days and owed one of the producers a favor.

Moving onto direction, with Martin Campbell’s last credited gig as a director being the reinvention of James Bond as sociopath in “Casino Royale”, I wasn’t surprised to see a number of action scenes that make Mel Gibson look a bit super spy like. Whereas I’m not a fan of the departures that franchise is taking from its roots, nor was I impressed with Campbell’s action scenes there, at least in this film, they help to keep the momentum going. Sadly, you’ll see every “surprise” coming, it’s only a matter of how close you are to the speakers to determine if the overly loud gunshots and car crashes will get you to jump (yes, I’m guilty but I fall prey to stingers like those even when I know they’re going to happen).

In any case, “Edge of Darkness” is a predictable though somewhat satisfying revenge flick but the ending (which feels so forced for test audiences it hurts my head) put a damper on my total estimation so I’ll give it a 2.5 out of 5. I can see why you’d want to escape for two hours with this one but I’ve seen much, much better. Just don’t worry too much about needing your brain, this is just a ride to let the synapses cool down and enjoy Ray Winstone lifting the standard Gibson action flick up a slight notch.