Ostensibly, Mel Gibson’s return to the screen in Edge of Darkness is his first attempt to re-elevate his public image to something above ‘crazed, drunken Anti-Semite.’
At least he took care of the ‘drunken Anti-Semite’ part.
In the film, Gibson portrays a craggy Boston Police detective — complete with shoddily-constructed Southie accent, for which Gibson drops only the bare minimum number of r‘s — who reunites with his long-estranged and now-mysteriously-sickened daughter. That night, she’s gunned down in cold blood on his porch right in front of him. Immediately, he sets out to find those responsible for her death. A few predictable fight scenes, a ridiculous whodunit, and convoluted political twists and turns ensue.
Taking on the role may not have been a bad decision from the outset for Gibson: The film is based on an acclaimed BBC miniseries. The director of that miniseries, Martin Campbell (who breathed new life into the aging James Bond franchise with Casino Royale), returned to direct the film. The premise is exciting, but either (A) it’s too conceptually far-flung to squeeze into a feature film, or (B) Campbell didn’t cut out enough elements to make it clean enough for a two-hour movie.
The character Thomas Craven proves a flawed comeback vehicle for Gibson as well. Early in the film, as the police mingle in his home to gather evidence after his daughter’s death, the first shot of Craven we see, post-murder, is of him sitting on the couch alone, not mourning, but seething. Craven snaps immediately into vigilante-justice mode, showing not pain or grief behind his eyes, but hatred and bloodlust.
If Edge has a redeeming quality, it’s in its response to our “dark” political and economic times, casting Gibson as a Working Class Everyman railing against the unfairness of the world. While perhaps heavy-handed and overly-simplistic, the indictment of the corrupt politicians and businessmen is unmistakable. In a way, it’s what still gives the audience any satisfaction in Gibson’s quest for revenge, as the nonsensical plot becomes easy to tune out fairly early on.
What Gibson needed was some reprise of his role in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs — oddly enough, his last starring role — that really shows his range and depth. He needed to highlight what could be his enduring strong suits — he can be a strong dramatic actor if he picks the right roles. But, instead the movie only showed how many steps he’s lost in his hiatus (and to be fair, he hasn’t lost too many, but it’s enough to be noticeable); a crazed vigilante with a thirst for justice.
And given his recent troubles, the last thing we need to see Gibson as is “crazed.”
THE VERDICT: Rent it. 2/5 stars.