Movie Review: Edge of Darkness

By Matthew Huntley

February 12, 2010

This is a metaphor for his career since The Incident.

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Edge of Darkness is a mostly straightforward thriller buoyed by good performances, raw emotion and a whole lot of violence. That last quality is what most viewers will take away from it. It's not inspired moviemaking, but it is entertaining, even if it is somewhat generic for the level of talent involved.

Once again playing the volatile father figure, Mel Gibson stars as Thomas Craven, a Boston detective whose only source of pride and happiness comes from his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic). Although I'm not a native Bostonian, Gibson delivers the accent quite well. He's tough, focused and convincing. Despite not having a starring role in eight years and his off screen troubles, Gibson is still a fine actor. He has a gift for making anything that could easily be over the top or farfetched seem relatively grounded and realistic, and he appears perfectly natural doing it. What Gibson does, we believe.


In the movie, Emma is brutally shot to death on her father's front porch. At first, it's not clear who the shooter was targeting, but Craven's investigation starts to uncover secrets about Emma's work and personal life that goes beyond what she told her father. Something was clearly on her mind that night and she was in severe physical pain before she was murdered. We know, just as Craven does, there's something dirty about Emma's boyfriend (Shawn Roberts) and employer (Danny Huston). And who exactly is the mystery Englishman (Ray Winstone) who shows up in Craven's back yard? The movie maintains a certain level of mystery about him, which I loved. He may be ominous, but he has an undeniable charm.

The plot of Edge of Darkness gets rather thick, and it's sometimes slow-moving, but director Martin Campbell pieces it together coherently and finds ways to keep the energy flowing, thanks mostly to some riveting action scenes and Gibson's forceful performance. With Gibson, you get the sense any time his character is meant to take charge, the actor is doing the same. Consider the scene when Craven is almost taken out by two henchmen. He escapes but then sneaks up on the man who ordered his death. Notice the close-up on Gibson's face and the way his eyes focus intently. Maybe it's because Gibson is also a director that he knows how scenes like these are supposed to play out. Either way, such details heighten the tension.

Eventually, the movie cares more about its plot than we do (our interest lies with the characters) but we see it through. It lacks the urgency of other mystery thrillers like The Fugitive and L.A. Confidential, and the story is conventional by today's standards, but the acting and pacing keep it afloat. The moments when Craven sees and talks to images of his daughter are lovely and heartrending. It's just a shame they aren't part of a story that's more inspired all around. This is a genre movie in every sense of the word. It's a good genre movie, yes, but it doesn't transcend its own boundaries.

What kept me with Edge of Darkness were its performances, emotion and violent payoffs. The ending boils down to an unbelievable, although quite effective, climax in which all the sinning characters get their comeuppance (in one way or another). Such an ending seems more appropriate for a James Bond movie than a raw human thriller, but I'd by lying if I said it didn't satisfy me. And the overall movie is satisfactory, too, but I probably won't remember it for very long. It's not powerful enough to be indelible, but I appreciated Campbell's bare-hands, no-nonsense approach and Gibson's conviction as a bereaved father out for vengeance. This type of material isn't new to Campbell or Gibson, and I would have preferred their talents be applied to a different screenplay, but the movie utilizes them just as well and we can't deny their effect.



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