Edge of Darkness

Release Date: January 29, 2010

Uh oh. Somebody just made an angry man angrier!

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
62/123 David Mumpower Mel Gibson plays an angry dude. What acting range. Ray Winstone is really good in this, though.
160/190 Max Braden I so could have solved this mystery 20 minutes in. Thankfully, Mel's delay gave us more screen time for Ray Winstone.

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Mel Gibson has kept a low profile lately, and for reasons that all of us should be very familiar with. Although he hasn’t appeared in front of the camera in a very long time and his off screen missteps are likely still on people’s minds, he does have a couple of things going for him as he attempts to rehabilitate his career. Gibson’s last film appearance was Signs, which while hardly fresh in our memory was well received and enormously successful. It certainly doesn’t hurt him that the last thing most people saw him in was something they probably enjoyed. It also doesn’t hurt that in the 20 years prior to Signs, Gibson enjoyed a run of box office favor that few other actors have. The sort of public goodwill he earned during this period is considerable, and while it undoubtedly meant he had cachet to burn, how much of it remains is yet to be seen. One possible gauge of this could be the success Gibson has enjoyed during his acting hiatus as a producer, writer and director. It isn’t an accident that like most wildly successful celebrities, Mel Gibson is a shrewd and intelligent craftsman not just when it comes to his work, but also to his image. And when a celebrity is mired in a career trough, how and if they dig out from it says more about them than any other thing at any other time.

So what has Mel been up to sice 2002? On the one hand, it is easy to say that The Passion of the Christ had something of a built in audience. But it can’t be denied that despite the growing drumbeat of controversy surrounding him even then, Gibson’s devoted attachment to the project was a source of intense curiosity for many filmgoers and the payoff was a spot as the fifth highest grossing film of 2004. Perhaps a less demographically skewed (and in the opinion of many, artistically superior) example would be Apocalypto, Gibson’s next most notable effort where he again wore the hats of director, writer and producer. Most people assumed that a $40 million action film featuring an extinct culture, an obscure setting and dialogue entirely composed of subtitled Yucatec Mayan had no chance to make its money back. It turns out they were wrong, and in no small part to Mel Gibson’s carefully choreographed publicity tour for the film. By his design and to his credit, the fallen icon has spent the last several years re-introducing himself to the public not as a hot-headed action star with a chip on his shoulder, but as an elder statesman of cinema.

Now, it’s time for him to openly tug at the sympathetic side of our psyche – not on a personal level, but by playing a character with whom we can easily empathize. There are few people for whom we can feel more pity than a parent who has lost a child, and it is in Edge of Darkness that Gibson returns to us, playing just that. But this is not The Patriot – a rousing but often frustrating oversimplification of the Revolutionary war. Nor is it Ransom – a satisfyingly taut but ultimately pedestrian action thriller. Edge of Darkness is a labyrinthine descent into Machiavellian horror and intrigue but unlike Ransom, the fate of the child isn’t the mystery. And unlike The Patriot, the "who" and "why" behind the deed is actually relevant. Darkness is based on a well regarded 1985 BBC miniseries of the same name, directed by Martin Campbell and produced by Michael Wearing. It was a haunting experience that began as a very human tale of personal tragedy and spiraled into a complex entanglement of interests that addressed one of the great global issues of the day. In retrospect the story may have been more prescient than one would care to believe and it is easy to see how the underlying subject it addresses might be modified to reflect current world affairs.

Reprising their behind camera roles for the big screen adaptation are Campbell (best known for saving James Bond’s career with Goldeneye and Casino Royale) and Wearing, along with scribe William Monahan, Oscar winning screenwriter of The Departed. Gibson is joined onscreen by veteran actors Ray Winstone and Danny Huston, as well as a supporting cast that may be hard to place, yet somewhat familiar faces for most audiences. A gritty blend of modern tragedy, techno- thriller and socially conscious mind bender, Edge of Darkness maintains a large base of admirers but is not familiar to most Americans. But the film version will have the benefit of creative pedigree behind the camera, as well as a familiar face helming the production on screen. Yet Hollywood’s track record with topical material is spotty to say the least, and the original version’s underlying theme will need to be adapted with great care in order to remain relevant and believable. But without a doubt the story many people will want to watch is how Mel Gibson’s return to the screen is embraced by his once adoring public. Though he has remained in demand inside the industry, Gibson knows better than most how fans can be as fickle as they are forgiving toward their idols. It isn’t likely that one relatively low profile early season release is going to make or break Gibson at this point, but it’s a safe bet that the choice of vehicle for his big screen return is no accident.

Regardless of how you feel about him, you probably don’t think of Gibson as a desperate man chasing shadows in search of a way to reassemble his shattered life. And you probably don’t view him as an honorable servant of society whose entire way of life has gone from a predictable comfort to an appalling burden. Mel Gibson may not be that man but if you can buy him in the role of that man then you might just be able to offer him forgiveness, if you feel he needed it. And you might just be able to forget why you were so disappointed with him to begin with, if in fact you were. (Bruce Hall/BOP)

Vital statistics for Edge of Darkness
Main Cast Mel Gibson
Supporting Cast Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Shawn Roberts, Bojana Novakovic, Frank Grillo, Gbenga Akinnagbe
Director Martin Campbell
Screenwriter William Monahan, Andrew Bovell
Distributor Warner Bros. Pictures
Rating R
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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