GENRE: Revenge as a dish best served by a booming handgun.
THE PITCH: Boston homicide detective Tommy Craven (Mel Gibson) sees his loving daughter (Bojana Novakovic) gunned down in what first appears to be a botched hit on him. He gradually suspects that a sinister weapons research corporation assassinated her, and faces down the likes of a silky CEO (Danny Huston) and a shadowy government “fixer” (Ray Winstone).
MONEY SHOTS: Craven bursts into a squalid apartment and fights a knife-wielding assailant. Craven gasps and slowly recovers after kicking said assailant’s ass. Any ominous discovery involving a Geiger counter. Several exciting shoot-outs. Evil company Northmoor has a high-tech campus and a commanding view worthy of a James Bond movie, of which director Martin Campbell helmed two.
BEST LINE: “Since it’s me trying to figure out who’d try to kill me for reasons unknown, I’d rather get paid for it,” Craven says, explaining to his boss his wish to investigate his daughter’s homicide rather than go on leave.
WORST LINE: “This is a cop thing. Officer involved,” Craven’s colleagues say at least twice, so you know it’s important.
MOST LOADED LINE: “You’d better decide if you’re hangin’ on the cross, or bangin’ in the nails,” Craven tells one of the film’s many weaselly authority figures. Did you know that in directing The Passion of the Christ, Gibson gave his hands a cameo literally bangin’ in the nails in the crucifixion scene? Seems like a weird choice for a shout-out.
BODY COUNT: About 15, frequently with graphic, gory gunshots. By the way, if you don’t like those obliterating, out-of-nowhere car crashes, I have some bad news for you, but at least it ends some wearisome overacting.
IS THIS FILM PSYCHIC OR WHAT? Edge of Darkness was shot last year, yet includes a Republican Senator (Damian Young) from Massachusetts. At least the character’s not a former nude model or a dad to an “American Idol” contestant.
CONSPICUOUS ACCENTS: Gibson restrains himself from an obvious “Southie” accent and sounds more like a New Jersey stereotype: “Scissas, I need some scissas.” Whenever he or cockney Winstone pronounce DARPA (for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), it sounds like “diaper,” as in “I saw your diaper file.”
CONSIDER THE SOURCE: Edge of Darkness is based on 1985’s six-hour British miniseries of the same name, also directed by Martin Campbell. In the original, Joe Don Baker played Winstone’s character, Darius Jedburgh, a role that must have lost something in the transition, because he’s almost comically portentous and doesn’t belong amid the film’s street-level realism.
HOW’S MEL? Not bad. Gibson’s slow-burn performance suggests Robert De Niro in tough-cop mode. The role’s combination of rage and martyrdom will do little to counteract Gibson’s anger management-image problems, however. And maybe it’s me, but those matching diagonal lines in his forehead look more pronounced than ever.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Campbell punctuates long, moody scenes with eruptions of terrifying violence, and the first half suggests Sixth Sense-era M. Night Shyamalan doing a revenge thriller. The more political the film becomes, however, the more self-important and muddled the plot grows, until Edge of Darkness crosses the edge of coherence.
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