Edge of Darkness (Warner Bros. Pictures, R)

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edgeofdarkness.jpgIn his performance, Gibson reminds the audience why he has been a movie star for 25 years. When he's onscreen your eyes can’t focus on anyone except him and the intensity he brings to each role.

Edge of Darkness could have been a very decent cop/revenge thriller, especially since Mel Gibson, through the Lethal Weapon movies, made cops eternally cool to watch. The movie is based on a British miniseries created by Martin Campbell, who also directs the film. While the miniseries was probably a gripping and fascinating show, the movie tries to condense far too much story into a very short time.

In his first starring role since 2002’s Signs, Mel Gibson plays Tom Craven, a Boston police detective whose daughter is murdered right in front of him. Initially, Craven and the police believe that he was the intended target, but soon it becomes clear that Emma (Bojana Novakovic) was intentionally killed because of her involvement with Northmoor, the private weapons researcher for whom she works. As Craven beings to look closer into his daughter’s death, he discovers that his daughter was not the sweet loner he thought she was.

Craven must also deal with a mysterious and enigmatic man, Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), who inserts himself into Craven’s investigation. At first, it’s not clear if Jedburgh is going to be working with or against Craven, though he does seem empathetic to his tragic loss. At the same time, Emma’s former employer seems anxious to cover up any involvement in her death and frame her as a potential terrorist threat to the United States.

Campbell, who directed two installments of the James Bond franchise (including Casino Royale), is clearly working extremely hard to juggle all the different plot points he sets up in the first act. With a miniseries there is ample time to flush out characters, background and subplots, but in a feature film running right around two hours, something has to be cut. Screenwriter William Monahan, who wrote The Departed and is one of the most skilled writers working today, seems to be trying to touch on every aspect of the original British series and refuses to sacrifice anything for the sake of pacing. The most frustrating part of the movie is that the filmmakers seem unable to decide whether it will be a revenge story, political thriller or character study of a father in mourning. Campbell and Co. are trying to squeeze too many different styles of storytelling into one movie resulting in a disjointed and bumpy final product.

In his performance, Gibson reminds the audience why he has been a movie star for 25 years. When he's onscreen your eyes can’t focus on anyone except him and the intensity he brings to each role. Here, Gibson changes gears , dropping all his winking and smiling; instead, he is a stoic, barely composed man who shows signs of cracking but is able to keep himself together only by focusing on answers and not his daughter’s death. Gibson has aged very well, but Campbell highlights his weathered face by using multiple closeups and giving the actor very little makeup. Gibson’s face wonderfully displays the weight of all Craven’s sadness and determination.

The most satisfying and effective part of the movie is Winstone’s performance as a man who clearly has more secrets than anyone else and who, in a strange way, envies Craven and what has happened. Winstone is the definition of an actor’s actor; not a single line of dialogue is delivered without copious amounts of preparation and plenty of subtle insinuations. His performance alone is enough reason to see the movie. |

Matthew F. Newlin

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