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Edge of Darkness

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Ray Winstone and Mel Gibson have much to not talk about.
  • Ray Winstone and Mel Gibson have much to not talk about.

Seems the last we heard about Mel Gibson, the actor was pissing off cops. Now, back in front of the cameras for the first time in eight years, Gibson is playing a pissed-off cop. But at least this cop -- Boston detective Tom Craven -- has legitimate cause for getting all rage-aholic.

But first, Edge of Darkness teases us. It opens with one ... two ... oops, three bloated bodies popping up in a river. (Are dead humans really so biologically predictable that three people will surface as neatly as a chorus line?) After this gloomy tableau, we shift to a sunny home video -- the on-screen marker says "1990" -- in which a little girl at the beach romps and calls excitedly to her daddy. 

Oh, here's daddy now -- Craven, a middle-aged single father, who is thrilled when his only child, 24-year-old Emma (Bojana Novakovic), comes home to visit. But something's wrong: Emma is oddly nervous, and during dinner, vomits up her insides. But as Craven is hustling her out the door to the doctor, a gunshot rings out, and Emma falls to the floor dead.

The police reckon Emma is the unlucky victim of an intended hit on Craven. But Craven isn't so sure. He's found a gun among Emma's belongings ... which leads him to her boyfriend ... who is terrified ... and all the drama seems centered on Emma's job.

Emma worked at Northmoor, a politically connected nuclear-widget facility ("we do not make bombs"). Craven pays a visit to its CEO (Danny Huston), and he, like us, knows instantly that this tanned, unctuous, sleek-suited dude is one bad hombre.

Meanwhile ... in a dark parking garage, two men obliquely discuss a "clean-up" operation. One guy is probably CIA (even if I knew he was, I couldn't disclose that); the other is a low-talking mysterious Brit (Ray Winstone) who goes by the obviously fake name of Darius Jedburgh.

The film lines up a few more players -- a Republican senator from Massachusetts (no, really!); some whistle-blowing do-gooders; a pair of assassins (sunglasses, dark suits, big black SUV) -- and sets them all a-swirl. Craven's furious desire for answers is the catalyst, but as things are wont to go in thrillers, Emma's death turns out to be just one piece of a very big, very nasty conspiracy. But then, you probably knew that. 

Edge of Darkness, directed by Martin Campbell, is adapted from a 1985 BBC mini-series (also helmed by Campbell), which, I suspect, filled in a lot more detail. What the film offers is akin to a line drawing, where we see the basic plot outlines, but little color to satisfyingly flesh it out. Too many characters, vital clues and instantly discovered connections pop up without explanation simply because they must. Too often, the film has a character give a précis of circumstances, rather than let them unfold naturally.

As such, the intricacies of the plot can be a bit of a challenge to follow -- there are a lot of shadowy white guys in suits with unclear intentions to keep straight. But since nearly all of the plot and the characters are standard to thrillers, a seasoned viewer can stay on track by employing assumptions. (See above for how to immediately identify top-shelf hired killers.)

Despite the flashy, clangy trailer you may have seen, Edge isn't really an action film. There's a lot more talking than running around. Nor is it particularly suspenseful: The drama is moderately paced; the villain is obvious; and any twists come straight from The Big Book of Movie Surprises.

But for a chilly winter respite, Edge is entertaining enough, thanks mostly to Gibson and Winstone. Gibson, who is suddenly looking a lot older, makes Craven sympathetic, setting the dial somewhere between grief and slow-burn revenge. And Winstone, as the enigmatic Jedburgh, steals the film. He gets all the best lines -- delivered with the sage dryness earned from a lifetime on the dark side -- and the last word. At a couple places in the film, Jedburgh and Craven get to talking, and these scenes of two weary, cagey old pros circling each other are the film's best moments.

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